Category Archives: Australia

Australia 2013

Federal elections were held in Australia on September 7, 2013. All 150 seats in the House of Representatives, the lower house of the Australian Parliament, and 40 of the 76 seats in the Senate, the upper house, were up for reelection.

Australia’s political and electoral system

Australia has a bicameral Parliament made up of the House of Representatives, whose members represent single-member constituencies (known in Australia as ‘divisions’ or ‘electorates’), and the (directly-elected) Senate, whose members represents the states and the two territories. Australia’s political and electoral system differs quite markedly from that of Canada and the United Kingdom, two other major Commonwealth realms. For starters, Australia’s bicameralism – with a nearly as powerful upper house – is unlike either British or Canadian contemporary bicameralism where the directly-elected lower house predominates over the appointed upper house.

The House of Representatives is made up of 150 members elected in as many single-member electorates, serving a term no longer than three years. Like in many other bicameral federal countries, apportionment in the lower house reflects population. According to the Australian Constitution, the House should have – “as nearly as practicable”, twice the number of Senators. Additionally, the Constitution guarantees all original states in the federation at least five seats, a clause which overrepresents Tasmania, Australia’s least populous state which has five seats with about 71,000-73,000 voters (in contrast, most divisions in New South Wales have about 90,000 to 105,000 voters). The Parliament also guarantees that Australia’s two territories – the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) and the Northern Territory (NT) have at least one member each; both territories currently have two seats in the House, with the ACT underrepresented (both members represent about 130,000 voters) and the NT overrepresented (about 64,000 voters per seat). The baseline quota for the number of voters in an electorate is determined by the number of voters in the state (rather than the whole country), with a maximum 10% deviation allowed.

Another Australian political particularity is that most electorates are named after historical figures, rather than geographic features or urban areas included in the seat. Only a handful of seats are named after geographic features.

Members of the House of Representatives are elected by preferential voting (also known as IRV or AV). On their ballot, voters must rank (number) all candidates in order of their preference. In federal elections, unlike in certain states (NSW, Queensland etc), full preferencing is mandatory – voters must rank all candidates, or their vote will not be counted (deemed as an ‘informal vote’), although their vote is counted if they leave one box blank – it is assumed that candidate would be their last preference. In polls, first preference votes are called the ‘primary votes’.

A candidate needs win an absolute majority of the total first preference voters. If no candidate has won an absolute majority, the candidate polling the fewest votes is excluded and his/her votes are transferred to the remaining candidates on the basis of his/her voters’ second preferences. This process of exclusion and transfers continues until one candidate has more than half of the total votes.

However, even in seats where a candidate has already been allocated, a full distribution of preferences takes place (until two candidates are left standing), to calculate a two-candidate preferred (2CP) and two-party preferred result (2PP). Australia basically a two-party system, with the centre-left Australian Labor Party (ALP) and the centre-right Coalition made up of the Liberal Party and the National Party. Therefore, in almost every single of the 150 electorates, the 2CP result is also the 2PP result. Only eight electorates in the last election, in 2010, had a ‘non-classic’ result where the 2CP was different from the 2PP – where one of the top two candidates was from neither major party (they were Greens or independents). In seats where the 2CP and 2PP are different, the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) notionally distributes preferences to the two major parties to determine a 2PP, which is purely informative.

The Senate is made up of 76 senators, 72 of which serve fixed six-year terms while the four remaining senators (the two senators representing each of the two territories) serve a term which runs concurrently to that of the House of Representatives. Similar to the United States Senate, Australian senators represent states – with each states, regardless of population, electing 12 senators (and the territories, as aforementioned, electing two each). Except in cases of a double dissolution election, the Senate is renewed by halves every three years (a half-Senate election). Therefore, in this election, each state elected six senators and the two territories both elected their two senators.

The Australian Senate, unlike the Canadian Senate or the House of Lords, has roughly equal powers to that of the lower house. It must pass all legislation, but the Senate cannot introduce or amend money bills (supply) – that prerogative is reserved to the House of Representatives. However, the Senate has the power to block supply, a power which led to a major constitutional crisis in 1975 when the government, which had the confidence of the lower house to govern, was denied supply by the opposition in the Senate – eventually leading to the Governor General controversially dismissing the sitting Labor Prime Minister.

If the Senate twice in a three-month period refuses to pass a bill approved by the lower house, the Prime Minister may use this bill (and any other bills which suffered similar fates) as ‘triggers’ and ask the Governor General for a double dissolution – in which the entirety of the Senate is up for reelection alongside the House. There have been five double dissolution elections since federation: 1914, 1951, 1974, 1975, 1983 and 1987.

The state senators serve fixed six-year terms. An election to renew half the Senate may only be called within twelve months of the term’s expiration. Therefore, if there is an early House election outside the twelve-month window in which Senate elections may occur, the synchronization of the election is disrupted and there may be elections in which only half the Senate is up for election. However, the House and Senate elections have been synchronized since 1974.

The Senate is elected by single transferable vote (STV). On the Senate ballot paper, voters may choose to either vote ‘above the line’ (or ‘group voting ticket’) or ‘below the line’. The vast majority of voters choose the former, which consists of simply placing a ‘1’ in the box next to their party or group of preference. The party or group they vote determines the order of their preference. The ABC’s website lists group voting tickets and how each parties chose to distribute Senate preferences in this election here. For example, a voter who voted ‘above the line’ for the Labor group voting ticket in South Australia would have his vote distributed to the three Labor candidates, then to the Greens, then to Family First and so forth. Some voters – usually more ‘sophisticated’ voters who know more about each candidate – vote ‘below the line’ where they individually rank every candidate. Full preferencing is mandatory. Voting ‘below the line’ allows a voter to distribute his/her top preferences between the candidates of the various parties as he/she pleases.

Counting for the Senate can take several weeks until it is fully finalized. To be elected, a candidate needs to gain a certain quota of votes (calculated using the normal valid votes divided by the number of seats +1). Candidates who reach the quota on the first count are automatically elected, and their surplus is then transferred to other candidates before the lowest-placing candidates are excluded. Only after other candidates are elected with other candidate’s surplus and their own resulting surplus is further transferred are the lowest-placed candidates progressively excluded and their votes distributed to the remaining candidates. This process continues until all seats have been filled. The sixth and final Senate seat in many states often takes days (if not weeks) to determine, being won by intricate vote transfers from minor candidates or surplus votes.

It is very rare for a government to win an absolute majority in the Senate; the Coalition’s Senate majority between 2004 and 2007 was the exception rather than the rule, and it is something which governments will find very hard to replicate in the future. As a result, the government may be held ‘hostage’ by the opposition in the Senate (as happened to Gough Whitlam’s Labor government in the 1970s) or they are reliant on the swing votes of the ‘crossbench’ – minor parties and independents holding the balance of power (as the two Labor governments since 2007 have been).

Context: Australian parties and leaders

I won’t run through an endless summary of Australia’s political history since 1901; if you’re interested, I wrote a rather dry and chronological summary of that back in 2010.

Australia has been governed since the 2007 federal election by the Australian Labor Party (ALP). The ALP is a centre-left party, although like numerous other social democratic parties in the west, it has shifted towards the political centre since the 1980s/1990s – Bob Hawke and later Paul Keating’s Labor governments (1983-1996) radically transformed the Australian economy through dismantling protectionist policies, privatizing industries, floating the Australian dollar and extensive deregulation of the financial and banking sectors.

Australia has a two-party/coalition system, albeit one in which some third parties have been able to poll particularly well and influence government policies through their presence in the Senate. The main opposition to Labor is the right-leaning Coalition, a quasi-permanent electoral and governing coalition (since 1922, with few interruptions) made up of the centre-right Liberal Party and the conservative agrarian National Party, with the former as the dominant actor. The Liberal Party, founded in 1945, is the latest incarnation of a string of anti-Labor right-wing parties beginning with the Commonwealth Liberal Party in 1909, and later the Nationalist Party and the United Australia Party.

The Coalition dominated Australia’s post-war politics, governing the country between 1949 and 1972. Under Prime Minister Robert Menzies (1949-1966), the Liberals/Coalition represented conservative conformism: solid and visceral anti-communism, protectionist tariff policies, a free enterprise economy at home (albeit one with substantial government intervention), social conservatism, sentimental affection for Britain and the construction of Australia’s close military alliance with the United States – Australia sent troops to Korea and Vietnam. After Malcolm Fraser’s Coalition government lost the 1983 election, the Liberals progressively shifted towards ‘New Right’ conservatism in vogue in the west around that time. Under Prime Minister John Howard (1996-2007), the Coalition continued Labor’s neoliberal economic policies – notably with initial spending cuts, the introduction of a GST, a strong commitment to low interest rates and a controversial deregulation of industrial relations laws (WorkChoices). Howard’s government was also marked by strong support for Washington’s post-9/11 counter-terrorism and foreign policies (the government sent troops to Afghanistan and Iraq), a tough stance on asylum seekers (the ‘Pacific Solution’) and a controversial decision not to ratify the Kyoto Protocol.

The National Party, founded in 1920 as the Country Party, is an agrarian party which claims to represent rural areas (‘regional Australia’), traditionally through lobbying in favour of policies favourable to farmers, producers and rural areas in general. The party’s heyday was in the 1950s and 1960s, when they exerted significant pressure on the Liberals in favour of high tariff policies for their rural base. However, outside Queensland, the Nationals have always remained the weaker of the two parties in the Coalition. Rural depopulation, demographic changes in rural areas and strong challenges from the Liberals or third parties/independents in their rural strongholds have led to a marked decline in the Nationals’ electoral fortunes and political influence. In recent years, observers have put into question the continued relevance of the party, given the general absence of major policy differences with the Liberals and the Liberal Party’s ever-stronger hegemony within the Coalition.

The Queensland branches of the Liberal and National parties merged in 2008 to create the Liberal National Party (LNP), the first and, to date, only merger of the Liberal and National parties in any state. In the Northern Territory, however, the Country and Liberal parties merged as early as 1974 to form the Country Liberal Party (CLP), which remains the right-wing Coalition party in the NT.

The Western Australian and South Australian Nationals (although only the former are of any relevance today) are independent from the Coalition and they may run candidates against Liberal candidates in state and/or federal elections. The WA Nationals held the balance of power in the WA state legislature after the 2008 election; they chose to form a coalition with the Liberals, although the party remains outside the federal Coalition. In effect, the Nationals continue to exist within the Coalition framework only in NSW and Victoria.

Of particular relevance to this election is that the ALP is a very factionalized party. Internal politics in the ALP are dominated by a complex web of factions, backroom ‘factional bosses’ who wield considerable power within the party and rival trade unions aligned with the ALP. Although each state branch of the ALP has its own factions, the national factions of the ALP often boil down to a conflict between the ALP Right and the ALP Left (although it’s often much more complicated that it appears).

Australia has a fairly unique leadership culture; certainly one which is quite different from that of the United Kingdom and even Canada. To begin with, the parliamentary leaders of both the ALP and the Coalition are elected by their respective parliamentary caucuses rather than party members and activists at a national convention. Party leadership in Australia is a cutthroat business marked by incessant intrigues, backstabbing, knife sharpening by ostensible ‘allies’ and ‘colleagues’ and conspiracies. To be sure, the ALP isn’t the only party with such a cutthroat leadership culture – although because of its organized faction system and the influence of ‘backroom’ union and faction bosses in the ALP’s leadership, it probably is a bit more cutthroat than the Liberals.

Factional bosses within the ALP have the power to create and destroy party leaders. Kevin Rudd, a Queensland MP, won the Labor Party’s leadership in December 2006 following a ‘leadership spill’ (the Australian for a leadership challenge or a snap leadership ballot) staged by the Right against hapless ALP leader Kim Beazley. Kevin Rudd went on to win the November 2007 election, handily defeating Prime Minister John Howard’s right-wing Coalition government, which had held power for eleven years. Rudd enjoyed a long honeymoon, which basically extended until early 2010. A mix of unpopular or fumbled government policies (a Home Insulation Program scandal, a delay in Rudd’s landmark Emissions Trading Scheme and a proposed ‘super tax’ on mining profits) and Rudd’s leadership style weakened his popularity throughout the spring and summer of 2010, with an election looming later that year. Sensing that Rudd was turning into a liability for the ALP, the factional bosses who had installed Rudd in 2006 turned against him and played up his Deputy Leader, Julia Gillard, a Victoria MP associated with the Left faction. Within the party, Rudd’s two cardinal sins had been his weak ties to either of the main factions and his leadership style – his colleagues came to see him as a chaotic manager, a control freak and a narcissist. In June 2010, the NSW and Victorian Right’s main power-brokers, later joined by the Australian Workers’ Union (AWU) – a union aligned with the Right – turned against Rudd. They informed Gillard that they had gathered sufficient caucus support for her to win the leadership. His back against the wall, Rudd called a leadership spill for June 24. Initially, Rudd had said he would contest the leadership, but with insufficient support, he withdrew before the vote and Gillard was installed unopposed.

Julia Gillard quickly went to the people to seek her own mandate. Although the ALP was confident that it would have little trouble defeating the Coalition’s polarizing and very conservative leader, Tony Abbott (who had himself won the Liberal leadership in 2009 following a coup against previous leader Malcolm Turnbull); a poor campaign, lingering bad blood between the Gillard and Rudd camps and the weight of unpopular Labor state governments (especially in NSW and Queensland) meant that the 2010 election ended in deadlock. For the first time since 1940, neither party won an absolute majority in the House – in fact, with 72 seats apiece, the ALP and Coalition ended up tied, both short of the 75 seats required for a majority. Gillard was only able to hang on after signing a confidence and supply deal with the Greens (who had elected their first MP and held the balance of power in the Senate) and three out of four independent MPs returned (two of them former Nationals). One of these independents, Andrew Wilkie (Tasmania), withdrew his support in January 2012 claiming that Gillard hadn’t kept her word on poker-machine reform. The Greens ended their agreement with Labor, while continuing to guarantee confidence and supply, in February 2013.

Julia Gillard was never a popular Prime Minister. Although she had been one of the most popular member of Rudd’s cabinet as Deputy Prime Minister – hence the reason why the ALP Right chose her when they dumped Rudd; as Prime Minister, she was never remarkably popular and failed to catch on with the Australian electorate. One of the reasons why Gillard never caught on with voters was the way in which she became Prime Minister in June 2010. Although Rudd was unpopular within the ALP caucus because of his arrogant, overconfident and narcissistic behaviour, he was far more popular with voters who came to see him, after he left office, as a betrayed man, unfairly and wrongly stabbed in the back by Gillard and his own caucus. Many voters saw Gillard as opportunistic and disloyal, and sided with Rudd over Gillard. Gillard never took the time to explain ‘her side’ of the June 2010 coup: the official version was that it was a ‘good government which had lost its way’, until 2012, the stories of Rudd’s domineering command of his cabinet and his chaotic management style were the preserve of political circles in Canberra and savvy followers of Australian politics.

To make matters worse, however, Rudd did not retire from Parliament after losing the Labor leadership. He was reelected in his Brisbane electorate in 2010 and became Foreign Minister in Gillard’s cabinet. Quickly thereafter, Gillard’s leadership was undermined by persistent speculation that Rudd was planning his revenge. Leadership speculation and internal divisions ran wild in February 2012, with both sides conspiring behind the scenes to undermine the other. Senior Labor MP and cabinet minister Simon Crean accused Rudd of disloyalty, comments which led Rudd to resign as Foreign Minister and later announce his intention to challenge Gillard for the Labor leadership. Gillard called a leadership spill for February 27.

Tensions flared between both sides. Gillard’s supporters, led by Deputy Leader/PM and Treasurer Wayne Swan, attacked Rudd as dysfunctional, chaotic and a poor team player because of his temperament. Rudd criticized some of Gillard’s policy decisions and her behaviour in the 2010 coup. However, Rudd still lacked strong enough support within the caucus to defeat Gillard, who won with 71 votes to 31.

In March 2013, with a heavy defeat looming for the party in the September 14 federal election, leadership speculation propped up again. On March 21, Simon Crean – the very man who had called Rudd disloyal a year prior – called for a leadership spill and announced that he would support Rudd. Gillard, in a show of strength, sacked Crean and called for a leadership spill that same day. Rudd, citing insufficient support within caucus (he had said he would only return if an ‘overwhelming majority’ of the caucus requested him to do so), did not contest and Gillard was reelected unopposed.

The March 2013 spill, Gillard’s show of strength and the Rudd team’s removal/resignation from cabinet did not fix matters for Labor, which was still badly trailing Tony Abbott’s Coalition in polls. On June 26, after an alleged caucus petition by Rudd supporters, Gillard called another leadership spill to end speculation. This time, Rudd announced that he would challenge Gillard. Prominent Labor leaders, including some who had toppled Rudd in 2010, sided with Rudd. Gillard had become a liability for the ALP, and Rudd was judged as the party’s only hope of winning – or at least not losing too badly – the September election. Victorian Right leader Bill Shorten, who had backed Gillard in the 2010 spill, came out in support of Rudd, alongside other leading cabinet ministers. Wayne Swan, however, remained firmly behind Gillard. Rudd won the spill 57 votes to 45. Gillard resigned as Prime Minister and announced, keeping with her pre-ballot pledge, that she would not seek reelection as MP. Kevin Rudd was sworn in as Prime Minister, and announced, on August 4, that the election would be held on September 7 (instead of September 14, as first called by Gillard on January 30).

Major issues

Climate change has been a major issue in Australian politics since at least the 2007 federal election, when tough action on climate change with the introduction of an emissions trading scheme (ETS) became a cornerstone of Kevin Rudd’s ALP platform. Rudd’s ambitious ETS/Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS) quickly became bogged down in Parliament. The Greens found the CPRS’ target limits on GHG emissions to be inadequate, forcing Rudd to negotiate with Liberal leader Malcolm Turnbull, who supported an ETS over the opposition of several right-wingers and climate change skeptics in his caucus. Turnbull’s decision to support the government’s policy and engage in negotiations angered many Liberal backbenchers and prominent right-wingers within the caucus, notably Senator Nick Minchin and former Howard cabinet minister Tony Abbott. Turnbull called a leadership spill for December 1, which was contested by Turnbull, Tony Abbott (as the leading right-wing/anti-ETS candidate) and Joe Hockey (a moderate who supported the ETS). Surprisingly, Abbott placed first with 35 votes to Turnbull’s 26 and Hockey’s 23 on the first ballot. He defeated Turnbull by a single vote, 42-41, on the second ballot. Two days later, the Senate rejected Rudd’s CPRS. Rudd chose not to use the trigger to call a double dissolution election and in April 2010 he announced that the CPRS implementation would be delayed.

In the 2010 election, Gillard’s Labor pledged that no carbon tax would be introduced (although she supported carbon pricing). However, as part of the deal with the Greens after the election, she was eventually forced to agree to a carbon tax in February 2011. The carbon tax (Clean Energy Bill) passed in October and November 2011 created a carbon tax, which would be in place for 3-5 years before an ETS is implemented. The carbon tax applies to facilities emitting more than 25,000 tons per year (except for agriculture and transport), with the price for an emission permit set at AU$23 per tonne of emitted CO2 in 2012-2013, set to increase to $25.4 in 2014-2015. To help households offset the impact of the carbon tax, the government increased the tax-free threshold from $6,000 to $18,200 and reduced personal income tax for all households earning less than $80,000. As a result of the carbon tax, household energy prices and house construction costs have increased.

The Coalition immediately called the carbon tax a ‘broken promise’ and Tony Abbott made repealing the carbon tax the cornerstone of its platform by 2011. Although the Coalition now opposes a carbon tax and fought against Rudd’s earlier ETS, it was Howard’s government which first came up with the idea of a carbon trading scheme back in 2007.

Labor’s cooperation with the Greens on this and other issues created some unease, even within the Labor caucus. Some Labor backbenchers felt that the government was too close to the Greens or giving in too much to the Greens, a view shared by many Australians – especially those on the right.

Given that the carbon tax increased the cost of living for most Australians, through higher energy and construction costs, the Coalition’s crusade against the carbon tax proved politically beneficial. However, while public support for the carbon tax remains lower than public opposition, the numbers in favour of the tax have been steadily increasing since it was introduced. The carbon tax did not turn out to be the economic disaster the Coalition had predicted it would be; most companies have adapted themselves to the new dispensation. Furthermore, a deal signed with the European Union on emissions trading (the EU already has an ETS) seems to further entrench the carbon tax.

Although the Coalition shares the ALP’s commitment to a 5-25% reduction in GHG emissions on 2000 level by 2020, its alternative plan is so-called ‘Direct Action’ – public subsidies as incentives for energy producers to reduce their emissions. Opponents of Abbott’s alternative plan say it does not provide any disincentive to pollution, and that the public – rather than polluters – would be the ones paying for it. The Coalition also said that it would abolish two new public entities, the Climate Change Authority and the Climate Commission, as well as a new ‘clean energy bank’ which provides investments in clean energy projects. Unsurprisingly, environmental groups have been extremely hostile to the Coalition’s environmental agenda.

Under Rudd, in July 2013, the ALP announced that it would bring forward the implementation of the ETS by a year (the price of carbon will be set by the market), to July 2014, a move which would cost $4 billion but also save families some $380. The Greens opposed bringing forward the ETS, given that Rudd’s decision effectively meant ‘terminating’ the carbon tax a year ahead of schedule. The Greens also support much stricter GHG emission targets, aiming at a 25-40% reduction on 1990 levels by 2020 and net-zero emissions by 2050.

Most voters, obviously, cited the economy as their top issue in this election. The economy and Australia’s economic performance has been a matter of hot and acrimonious debate between Labor and the Coalition – the former saying they’ve kept Australia’s economy remarkably strong despite the financial crisis while the Coalition styles the government as one of the worst in years, citing a growing debt and fiscal irresponsibility.

Australia, unlike the United States and most EU countries, has not gone through recession since the global financial crisis began. Even in 2009, the Australian economy grew by 1.4%. It grew by 3.6% in 2012 and is scheduled to keep growing by around 3% through 2018. Many have cited the Hawke-Keating and Howard governments’ economic reforms in the 1990s/2000s as reasons for Australia’s robust economic performance since 1991. In recent years, growth has largely been fueled by a strong mining sector, returning large profits and contributing to economic growth because of high demand for minerals by China and other Asian economies. Australia has only 5% unemployment.

Although the Coalition says that the rise in debt over the ALP’s first four budgets has been bigger as a share of GDP than any other four-year period since 1990, Australia’s debt levels and credit ratings are something which most other western economies would only dream of having at this point. Although the debt has increased from 9.7% in 2007 to 27.6% in 2013, it is set to fall back to 17% of GDP by 2018 and Australia is one of the few remaining countries with an AAA credit rating from the three ratings agencies.

However, Australia has had a budget deficit since 2008-2009, reversing a string of Coalition surplus budgets since 2002-2003. Gillard ‘assured’ voters in 2010 that her government would post a surplus in 2013, and it stuck to that pledge until December 2012 – a long time after nearly everybody had said that it would not be able to meet its promise, or that doing so would entail excessive costs on the economy (austerity). The last budget had a $18 billion deficit. Labor’s campaign promised a return to surplus in 2016-2017.

The Coalition said that Australia was facing a “budget emergency”, but it did not really campaign on a platform of austerity. The Coalition has said that sound economic management is in its DNA and that returning to a surplus was a priority, but Abbott fell short of putting numbers or timelines on that and did not say if it would happen under his first term in office. The Coalition promised to start paying off the debt, lower taxes, reduce spending cut red tape costs and eliminate 12,000 public sector jobs but create one million jobs in five years. Abbott also promised significant investments in infrastructure. The Coalition was criticized for not releasing its detailed platform costings until two days before the election. The main victim of cuts under a Coalition budget would be foreign aid, while the Coalition expects to garner revenue by reducing the number of asylum seekers and by repealing the carbon tax.

Labor ran on its record, but also a ‘scare campaign’ warning of austerity and massive cuts under a Coalition government. Late in the campaign, Rudd, flanked by Treasurer Chris Bowen and Finance Minister Penny Wong, claimed that there was a $10 billion hole in the Coalition’s platform. The announcement backfired quite epically after the heads of Treasury and Finance distanced themselves from Rudd’s remarks, and Liberal Shadow Treasurer Joe Hockey called Rudd a ‘liar’ afterwards.

In the last months of the first Rudd government, Kevin Rudd and Wayne Swan proposed a Resource Super Profit Tax (RSPT), which would have been a 40% tax levied on all extractive industries. The RSPT was met with an avalanche of opposition from Coalition and, more importantly, the mining companies. Between May and June 2010, the mining companies and the federal government engaged in a costly ‘ad war’ – with the mining giants running ads against the RSPT, and the federal government spending millions on an ad campaign in support of the RSPT. The handling of the RSPT by the Rudd government was one of the reasons Labor’s powerbrokers toppled him in 2010 and replaced him with Gillard. Upon taking office, Gillard buried the hatchet and cancelled the ad campaign (the mining companies followed suit). Her government renegotiated the mining tax with the mining companies and the Greens, passing the Minerals Resource Rent Tax (MRRT) in 2011. The MRRT is a 22.5% tax on the profits of iron ore and coal projects but only applies to profits over $75 million. The government also expanded the 40% Petroleum Resource Rent Tax to cover all onshore and offshore oil and gas projects.

The intake of the MRRT was rather disappointing for the government, which had projected $2-3 billion revenue from the tax in 2013; it only raised $200 million. The lower than expected revenue forced Labor to shelve part of its “benefits of the boom” plan to use the MRRT’s revenue, which was originally supposed to cover a $1.8 billion boost to family tax benefits (dropped), a 1% reduction in the company tax rate and an increase in compulsory superannuation from 9% to 12%. Despite the relative failure of the MRRT, Labor is committed to keeping the tax as is.

In contrast, the Coalition promised to repeal the MRRT, arguing that the best way to make companies pay is through state royalties. The Coalition also wants to hand over environmental approvals for all resource projects to state governments.

The Greens, who supported the MRRT, want to amend the tax to increase the rate to 40% and expand coverage to all minerals. Unlike Labor and the Coalition, the Greens also oppose most new mining, coal seam gas and shale gas projects.

One of the more ironic parts of the campaign might be that, on childcare and family policies, it was the right-wing Coalition which promised the most generous and expensive childcare/parental leave policy, with the centre-left Labor attacking the Coalition’s plan for being too costly. One of Tony Abbott’s signature policy proposals was a 26-month paid parental leave for mothers, at their actual wage (up to $150,000) or the national minimum wage (whichever is greater). Labor’s current paid parental leave plan covers 18 weeks, paid at the minimum wage and not including superannuation. The Greens’ proposal is somewhere in between both parties’ plans, proposing a 26 month paid leave but full replacement salary only up to $100,000.

One of the reasons why Tony Abbott came out with such an ambitious and generous paid parental leave plan was an effort to fix his image as being sexist or misogynist. Abbott, a socially conservative Catholic who opposes abortion and same-sex marriage, made controversial comments about women in the past, which led many of his detractors to call him sexist or misogynist. In a much-heralded and publicized speech in the House in 2012, Gillard called out Abbott for his past statements and branded him as a ‘sexist’ and ‘misogynist’. Obviously, Abbott dismissed such labels, but his landmark parental leave policy was a major effort by the Coalition to give him a more pro-women image.

The Coalition supports the Labor government’s new DisabilityCare (formerly National Disability Insurance Scheme), which passed into law in March 2013. The program, to which the budget committed $14.3 billion, will provide 460,000  Australians with disabilities with funding to cater directly to their needs. Another major Labor policy which the Coalition more or less supports is Labor’s landmark National Broadband Network, a huge project to provide 93% of homes with fibre-to-home broadband internet. The Coalition opposed Labor’s NBN policy in 2010, but given how popular of a policy it has turned out to be, Abbott’s policy involves a cheaper (and slower) network. The Coalition proposes fibre-to-node (existing copper cables would connect nodes to homes) technology, which would cost $17 billion less than Labor’s plan and would be completed sooner (2019 instead of 2021) – but the internet would be slower than with Labor’s NBN. The Greens support Labor’s policy.

One issue which has raised passions and divided Australians for decades now is the question of asylum seekers. In 1992, Paul Keating’s Labor government introduced mandatory detention policies – detention (in immigration detention centres) of all persons entering the country without a valid visa while authorities assess the legitimacy of their reasons for entering the country and carry out security/health checks. After 2001, the Howard government took a tough stance on asylum seekers with the Pacific Solution, an offshore processing system under which asylum seekers were sent to Pacific island nations (Manus Island in Papua New Guinea and Nauru). Authorities also tried, when possible, to stop boats – mostly coming from Indonesia – carrying illegal migrants, most migrants being from Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Sri Lanka, China, Myanmar or Vietnam. The Pacific Solution was very successful in nearly stopping illegal boat arrivals: from over 5,500 in 2001 to only one in 2002. Critics argue that a good part of that is due to the fall of the Taliban in Afghanistan. The Pacific Solution, however, was very controversial and was heavily criticized by the Greens or human rights groups. NGOs said that Australia was not meeting its international obligations and expressed concerns about the poor condition of the offshore detention facilities.

In 2007, the Rudd government dismantled key aspects of the Pacific Solution and adopted a more ‘compassionate’ approach. However, the number of boat arrivals increased dramatically, from 161 in 2008 to over 2,700 in 2009 – and that number has increased to over 17,200 in 2012. Although a vocal minority mostly on the left are critical of the Pacific Solution and similar hardline policies on asylum seekers, most voters are rather supportive of tough stances like that taken by the Coalition under Howard.

Feeling that the immigration situation was dragging down the government and playing to the Coalition’s advantage, Gillard quickly backtracked on Rudd’s initial asylum seeker policies and began negotiations, first with East Timor and later with Malaysia, for a return to offshore processing. Negotiations to open a detention centre in East Timor failed, but in May 2011 she announced a deal with Malaysia whereby Australia would exchange asylum seekers (to be sent to and detained in Malaysia) with Malaysian refugees. The High Court, however, ruled the agreement invalid in August 2011. With boat arrivals continuing and a number of tragic boat sinkings which claimed the lives of asylum seekers, the issue remained at the fore of debate in 2012. In August 2012, Gillard announced that her government would reopen the offshore detention centres on Manus Island (PNG) and Nauru, marking a return to the Coalition’s Pacific Policy. This new policy, however, didn’t do anything to stem the tide of boats.

Certainly the most important event in Rudd’s short second government between regaining the Labor leadership in late June 2013 was his new policy on asylum seekers – adopting an even tougher stance than Howard had taken with the Pacific Solution. Following a deal with the Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea, Rudd announced that all asylum seekers arriving by boat would be sent to PNG for processing and resettlement. Rudd declared no asylum seeker who comes by boat would ever be resettled in Australia. If they are found to be refugees, will be resettled in PNG, Nauru or other countries in the region. Rudd also finalized a similar agreement with Nauru.

In May 2013, Labor – with the Coalition’s support – passed legislation which excised the entire mainland from Australia’s migration zone, meaning that asylum seekers who reach the mainland are no longer able to even apply for a visa to enter Australia.

The Coalition under Tony Abbott has made ‘stop the boats’ one of its main policy planks in 2010. Rudd’s new policy was intended to challenge the Coalition on an issue where voters have traditionally sided with the Coalition rather than Labor. Both parties have fairly similar hardline asylum seeker policies now, both of them supporting offshore processing and mandatory detention. Abbott’s ‘stop the boats’ plan, however, also involves the Australian military. Under the Coalition’s policy, the government would create a military-led and chaired task-force made up of the 12 border security agencies and authorize the Navy to ‘turn back’ the boats ‘where it is safe to do so’ (the Howard government had a similar policy of turning back the boats, if possible, to Indonesia). It would also reintroduce temporary protection visas (allowing refugees to be released into the community for three years, but without work rights) and extend them, meaning no one who came to Australia by boat would ever get permanent resettlement; they would have to reapply for protection periodically and return to their home country once it was safe. It would make its temporary protection visas retrospective, meaning no asylum seeker who has already arrived in Australia would ever have permanent settlement. The Coalition also opposed Labor’s decision to increase the humanitarian refugee intake from 13,750 to 20,000 and would reverse it.

Rudd’s policy was met by waves of criticism from the left and human rights groups – but also former Liberal Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser, who has become quite left-wing in retirement. The Greens strongly opposed Rudd’s new policy as ‘cruel’ and offer a much different platform on immigration: increasing humanitarian intake to 30,000, ending offshore processing and abolishing mandatory detention.

Same-sex marriage was not a top issue in the campaign, but it has become a hot topic in Australian politics, especially as other Western nations such as New Zealand, France and England/Wales all legalized same-sex marriage in 2013. In 2008, Labor passed legislation which recognized same-sex couples in federal law, granting them the same rights as heterosexual unions. However, private members bills introduced by the Greens or a Labor backbencher to legalize same-sex marriage have all failed. Julia Gillard opposed same-sex marriage, as did Kevin Rudd until this year.

However, in May, before reclaiming his old job, Kevin Rudd announced a change of heart and endorsed same-sex marriage, and became the first Australian Prime Minister to support same-sex marriage. When challenged by a Christian pastor on the issue on a Q&A programme near the end of the campaign, Rudd answered with a passionate argument in favour of same-sex marriage which became a small YouTube hit and won international acclaim from supporters of same-sex marriage. Labor’s platform promised to introduce legislation to legalize same-sex marriage if it won reelection, but it would still allow its MPs a free vote (like in 2012). The Greens have long supported same-sex marriage and has even suggested that Labor MPs should be whipped to vote in favour.

The Coalition, although voting in favour of the Rudd government’s 2008 legislation to extend benefits to same-sex couples, opposes same-sex marriage and Tony Abbott has not allowed his MPs a free vote on the issue (but only a tiny minority of Liberal MPs seem to favour same-sex marriage, including former leader Malcolm Turnbull). Tony Abbott was even challenged on the issue by American pop singer Katy Perry on an Australian radio show.

You can read more about policies on The Age, the ABC or The Guardian.

The Labor government since 2010 faced two major scandals. NSW Labor MP Craig Thomson was the subject of an investigation regarding misuse of union funds while he was leader of the Health Services Union. Gillard was hesitant to take a tough stand on the Thomson/HSU affair because a by-election in his electorate could mean that Labor would lose its majority in Parliament. He was suspended from the party in April 2012 and in October 2012, Fair Work Australia, the federal workplace relations tribunal, launched civil proceedings against him. He was arrested in January 2013.

In November 2011, the government installed Queensland LNP MP Peter Slipper as Speaker of the House, a move criticized by the Coalition, of which Slipper was a member (until he resigned from it shortly after becoming Speaker). In April 2012, he faced allegations of accused of sexually harassing a member of his staff. While Slipper temporarily stepped down from his duties, the Labor government continued to support him and argued that Slipper’s staffer did not have a case – even after lewd text messages sent by Slipper were released.

It was in this context that Gillard gave her viral misogyny speech in which she attacked Abbott as a sexist and misogynist. While it was met with widespread acclaim abroad, the domestic reaction was more subdued – she gave the speech in response to Abbott calling on Slipper to resign, and her government continued to support Slipper despite the text messages.

Preliminary results

The nature of Australia’s electoral system means that vote counting can take quite a while. Results remain preliminary, especially for the Senate. But as of today, more and more results are being set in stone. Results come from the AEC.

House of Representatives (primary votes, preliminary)
Coalition 45.66% (+2.04%) winning 90 seats (+17)
Liberal 31.92% (+1.46%) winning 58 seats (+14)
Liberal National Party 8.96% (-0.16%) winning 22 seats (+1)
The Nationals 4.44% (+0.71%) winning 9 seats (+2)
Country Liberals 0.34% (+0.03%) winning 1 seat (nc)
Labor 33.63% (-4.36%) winning 55 seats (-17)
Greens 8.35% (-3.41%) winning 1 seat (nc)
Palmer United Party 5.52% (+5.52%) winning 1 seat (+1)
Family First 1.37% (-0.88%) winning 0 seats (nc)
Independents 1.4% (-0.81%) winning 2 seats (-1)
Katter’s Australian Party 1.03% (+0.72%) winning 1 seat (nc)
Others 3.06% (+1.2%) winning 0 seats

House of Representatives (2PP, 140/150 divisions)
Coalition 53.38% (+3.58%) winning 90 seats (+17)
Labor 46.62% (-3.58%) winning 55 seats (-17)

Coalition 37.54% (-1.09%) winning 18 seats (nc) for 34 total seats (nc)
Liberal/National (NSW, VIC) 21.71% (+0.29%)
Liberal National Party (QLD) 7.54% (-0.44%)
Liberal (WA, SA, TAS, ACT) 7.64% (-0.95%)
The Nationals (WA, SA) 0.40% (+0.07%)
Country Liberals 0.36% (+0.05%)
Labor 30.34% (-4.79%) winning 12 seats (-6) for 25 total seats (-6)
Greens 8.56% (-4.55%) winning 4 seats (+1) for 10 total seats (+1)
Palmer United Party 4.97% (+4.97%) winning 1 seat (+1) for 1 total seat (+1)
Liberal Democrats (LDP) 3.84% (+2.03%) winning 1 seat (+1) for 1 total seat (+1)
Nick Xenophon Group 2.1% (+2.1%) winning 1 seat (nc) for 1 total seat (nc)
Sex Party 1.35% (-0.69%) winning 0 seats (nc)
Family First 1.11% (-0.99%) winning 1 seat (+1) for 1 total seat (+1)
Shooters and Fishers 0.93% (-0.75%) winning 0 seats (nc)
Katter’s Australian Party 0.84% (+0.84%) winning 0 seats (nc)
Democratic Labour Party 0.84% (-0.22%) winning 0 seats (nc) for 1 total seat (nc)
Australian Motoring Enthusiast Party 0.49% (+0.49%) winning 1 seat (+1) for 1 total seat (+1)
Australian Sports Party 0.02% winning 1 seat (+1) for 1 total seat (+1)
Others 6.96% (+2.51%) winning 0 seats (nc)

Australia 2013

Note: the map shows the % majority on 2CP – ‘majority’ defined as in Britain (winning candidate’s % – runner-up candidate’s %). Australia calculates ‘margin’ as winning candidate’s % – 50.00%.

As polls had predicted, Tony Abbott’s Coalition won a decisive victory – not quite a landslide (certainly not comparable to the Lib/Nat’s landslides in the QLD or NSW state elections in 2012 and 2011 respectively) but certainly a very comfortable win similar to John Howard’s inaugural 1996 victory or his fourth reelection in 2004.

In the next post covering the Norwegian election on September 9, we’ll see that Norwegian governments have rarely won third terms in office in the post-war era. In contrast, Australian governments often tend to win more than two three-year terms. But after only two terms and six years in office, Labor was thrown out – making it the first government since Gough Whitlam to not win at least a third term.

When one considers the relatively solid state of Australia’s economy – it hasn’t been in recession since 1991, 5% unemployment is no more than a wet dream for many of Australia’s G20 partners, low interest rates and a comparatively healthy debt/deficit – the defeat of a sitting government by such a wide margin may be quite surprising. A good economy does not mean that a government will inevitably win reelection – plenty of governments around the world have lost reelection despite a strong economy. However, many of those governments lost because of voter fatigue after 10+ years in office. Labor has been in office for ‘only’ six years.

Voter fatigue, however, played a key role in Labor’s defeat this year. This voter fatigue was in large part the result of Labor’s crippling internal instability and turbulent governments. Internal instability and civil wars always reflect badly on any party. And this was more than just the usual internal rumblings from malcontents about a mediocre leader: it was a series of constant factional wars, decided by shadowy figures in smoke-filled rooms, with a toppled Prime Minister conspiring from the day he lost his job to reclaim it from his one-time ally, and that sitting Prime Minister eager to hang on to her job and keep her ally-turned-bitter rival out of office. Labor might have done a good job in office, in terms of governance and policy (a subjective view, naturally, but a good case could be made that the government’s record was quite good), but it was often overshadowed by the constant factional warfare, backstabbing and backroom conspiracies. Labor gave the image that it was unable to govern itself.

The Coalition understood that voters were fed up with turbulent politics and instability under Labor and they ran on a platform which basically promised stability. A somewhat hypocritical promise, given that the Liberals are only slightly less prone than Labor to leadership chaos – for example, the CLP Chief Minister of the NT was recently toppled in a leadership spill.

Other factors played in the government’s defeat. Several unpopular policies or government decisions became strong rallying points for the conservative opposition.

There was the carbon tax, whose immediate repeal has been at the heart of the Coalition’s platform ever since it was first approved in 2011. Abbott, back in 2011, said that 2013 would be a ‘referendum on the carbon tax’. It is hard to say to what role the carbon tax played in voters’ minds in 2013 given that public acceptance of the carbon tax has been slowly edging upwards and the initial anger has petered out a bit. The election probably wasn’t a ‘referendum on the carbon tax’ as the Coalition said it would be, especially as Rudd was campaigning on terminating the carbon tax a year ahead of schedule. It may, however, have mobilized conservative opinion against Labor.

The Coalition’s old ‘stop the boats’ pledge was popular with voters, hence why Rudd adopted such a tough stance on asylum seekers with the ‘PNG Solution’. Given Rudd’s new policy and the general proximity of both main parties on the issue, opposition to illegal boat arrivals was probably not a factor in Labor’s defeat, although it certainly dragged down the government between 2008 and 2013 – and some voters might have remembered that when they voted.

As in the 2010 election, Labor was unsuccessful at getting its message across and defending its record. For example, the Coalition was able to steamroll the government on economic issues. Labor’s failure to get its message across brings us to another major factor in this campaign: Kevin Rudd.

Kevin Rudd was ‘brought in’ at the end of June in a calculated attempt by Labor powerbrokers (those who had him kicked out three years prior) to win the election or, at the very least, save the most furniture possible. At the start of the year, with some polls showing Labor clawing upwards and eating into the Coalition’s massive lead on the primary vote and 2PP, some had thought that Julia Gillard – with a reputation as a fighter – would be able to turn things around, get Labor on the offensive and turn the tables on Abbott. However, by the summer, only weeks before the election itself, Labor was still trailing the Coalition by over 10 points on 2PP (up to 57-43) and it was crystal clear that Gillard would not be able to win the election. Rudd, who was much more popular than Gillard at that point, was a last-ditch attempt to win, or, more likely, salvage what could be salvaged.

Despite losing, was Kevin Rudd a net positive for Labor? Labor certainly lost by a substantial margin, but with about 54 seats (at least) it is in a better position to begin rebuilding than, say, the NSW and QLD Labor parties. In short, a major defeat but not a crippling one. Labor should be able to rebuild and fix itself up a bit before the 2016 federal election. Would Julia Gillard have done a better or worse job than Rudd in the election? Narratives have already been built for both views – the former holds that Rudd is too chaotic and egocentric of a politician to run a good campaign, and Gillard as a fighter could have run a better and less disorganized campaign; the latter holds that Gillard was far too unpopular with voters to be able to win, and that Rudd helped the party – notably by managing to hold all but two/three of Labor’s seats in his home state of Queensland (but Labor’s result in Queensland in 2010 was quite bad to begin with).

Rudd’s return to Prime Ministership came with the usual (short-lived) honeymoon: Labor took the lead on 2PP for the first time since 2010/2011 probably; but the poll bounce died off, and Labor fell back behind the Coalition and what had been clear for over a year – that Abbott would win – became clear again after a brief moment of doubt when Rudd returned. What seems to have gone wrong for Labor between the day Rudd returned and September 7 was a poorly run campaign, widely described as being disorganized and chaotic – in good part due to Rudd himself.

This post-election article describes how Rudd’s campaign imploded, going into lengthy details about a disconnect between central headquarters in Melbourne and Rudd’s personal campaign. Rudd has a long-standing reputation as a chaotic, thought-bubble and micro-managing type of guy; it was one of the reasons why the Labor caucus toppled him in 2010. During the campaign, there were several moments where frustrated Labor strategists felt that Rudd was making up policies on his own as he went along. The most infamous, cited in the article, is when Rudd floated the idea of a differential tax rate for Northern Territory businesses in a campaign stop in Darwin.

Rudd and the campaign’s messages weren’t working – nothing was sticking, nothing was breaking through with voters. Labor’s bump on asylum seekers didn’t last long. Rudd’s attacks on the Coalition – saying Abbott would raise the GST and/or “cut, cut, cut” – didn’t work. A successful second debate performance was ruined by a Facebook post from the woman who had put makeup on both leaders, which said that while Abbott was ‘lovely’, Rudd had been mean. An incident which brought back the old stories about Rudd’s unpredictable rudeness and egocentric behaviour. Rudd’s announcement that he would move a main Navy base from Sydney to Brisbane resulted in him being ‘ambushed’ on the stump by the Liberal Premier of NSW. Finally, as aforementioned, was the disastrous Rudd-Bowen-Wong announcement of the ‘black hole’ in the Coalition’s costings and the subsequent reprimand from the mandarins at Treasury and Finance.

It is also quite a performance from Tony Abbott, who was, not all that long ago, brushed off as an unelectable leader. Labor was certainly overconfident (in 2009) that Abbott’s reputation as a ‘social reactionary’ and his propensity for making controversial or insensitive comments (notably about women, hence the sexist/misogynist accusations) would mean that he would not be a serious threat. Besides, Abbott seems to be fairly gaffe-prone (although he doesn’t have foot-in-mouth disease); during the campaign he commented on a Liberal female candidate having ‘sex appeal’ and said ‘suppository’ instead of ‘repository’.

Abbott’s personal approval numbers (satisfied vs. dissatisfied) were quite low throughout the last Parliament’s term – he had a dissatisfied rating in the 50-60% range for most of 2011 and 2012, and only improved slightly during the campaign (but even the last polls had him with a negative satisfaction rating). It is pretty clear that the Coalition didn’t win because Abbott was a Obama-2008 like “transformational figure” who excited the electorate on his own merits; the Coalition won because Gillard/Rudd’s ratings as Prime Ministers were even lower and voters were fed up with the chaos and instability of Labor governments.

Nevertheless, Abbott cleaned up his image considerably over the course of the campaign. He tempered off his traditional “attack dog” image he had had since the last election as leader of the opposition, and ran a well-organized and disciplined campaign with a clear focus: stop the boats, clean up the debt and repeal the carbon tax. Abbott also softened his personal image, which up to that point had been that of a strict Catholic social conservative lacking a ‘soft touch’. During the campaign, he often appeared alongside his two daughters, aged 20 and 22 respectively. His generous parental leave policy was also an aspect of this calculated strategy to soften his previously ‘harsh’ image. Nevertheless, his seemingly natural propensity for awkward or insensitive comments came back: in a pitch to contestants of the Big Brother TV show, Abbott said he was “the guy with the not bad looking daughters.”

The Greens won 8.3%, a poor showing after their record-high 11% result in the 2010 election. In 2010, the Greens benefited from a high left-leaning protest vote in their favour, which seems to have evaporated somewhat in this election.  However, while the Greens have reason to be disappointed at their poor showing and the substantial swings against them in most electorates, they can be pleased with two results: holding, against very tough odds, their only seat in the House of Representatives, and increasing their representation in the Senate by at least one seat to reach a record of 10 senators.

The election was shaken up by millionaire mining magnate Clive Palmer, who created his own party – the Palmer United Party (PUP) – earlier this year and managed to run 150 candidates, including Clive Palmer in the LNP-held seat of Fairfax on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast (north of Brisbane). Clive Palmer is a famous Australian millionaire – Forbes estimated his wealth at US$795 million – who owns the mining company Mineralogy. Besides creating his own party, the eccentric and bizarre millionaire made two other announcements this year: that he was building the Titanic II, a replica of the ill-fated RMS Titanic and opening an amusement park with animatronic dinosaurs.

Clive Palmer has been active in politics, as a member of the Queensland National Party (and later LNP) since 1974. He was the Nats’ campaign director in the 1983 QLD state election and was supporter of famous Queensland Premier Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen’s disastrous ‘Joh for Canberra’ bid for the Prime Ministership in the 1987 federal election. Palmer announced in 2012 that he would contest the LNP preselection (nomination) for the seat of Lilley, currently held by Julia Gillard ally and former Treasurer Wayne Swan. Such plans were scrapped in November 2012 when he resigned his life membership in the LNP, a party which he had also been a generous donor to.

The PUP is a classic populist party, feeding on voters’ anti-establishment feelings. His platform seems to have consisted of a mis-mash of policies, such as reducing inequalities between Aboriginals and the rest of the population, major investments in health and education, increasing pensions, creating mineral wealth and repealing the carbon tax. All in all, a classic populist party, with the added flair of typical Queensland populism – not far removed from Sir Joh. The PUP’s Senate candidates included former athletes: a former Australian rules football player, a boxer and former rugby player (Glenn Lazarus, the PUP’s senatorial candidate in QLD).

During the campaign, Clive Palmer again demonstrated his penchant for eccentricity and oddities by channeling Miley Cyrus and twerking on a radio show.

The incumbent MP for Kennedy, Bob Katter (a ex-Nat independent) created his own party, Katter’s Australian Party (KAP) in 2011. The KAP won two seats in the 2012 QLD state election, and a defection from a LNP MP has given it a third seat in the state legislature. Katter, the only of the four independents elected in 2010 who sided with Abbott rather than Gillard, is a fairly typical old-style Nat rural independent: socially conservative, but economically ‘left-leaning’ if only because of his protectionism and interventionist views, quite far removed from the Coalition and Labor’s free-market oriented economic policies.

Detailed results – House

The Coalition won the 2PP in every state and territory except the public servant-heavy ACT, a traditional Labor/Green stronghold which gave nearly 60% of the 2PP vote to Labor (and barely swung from 2010).

NSW 47.43% 34.76% 7.66% 4.21% 54.39% 45.61%
VIC 43.07% 35.04% 10.35% 3.6% 50.2% 49.8%
QLD 45.54% 30.06% 6.04% 11.17% 56.2% 43.8%
WA 51.33% 28.97% 9.53% 5.35% 57.15% 42.85%
SA 44.99% 36.05% 8% 3.72% 52.35% 47.65%
TAS 40.4% 34.92% 8.11% 6.07% 50.79% 49.21%
ACT 34.61% 43.38% 13.05% 2.84% 40.04% 59.96%
NT 41.64% 37.66% 7.77% 4.62% 50.26% 49.74%

The heaviest swings against Labor, on 2PP, were in Tasmania (-11.4%), Victoria (-5.5%) and South Australia (-5.5%). In New South Wales, there was a smaller 3.2% swing against Labor. The swings against the governing party were smaller in the other states: -1.1% in Queensland, -1.2% in Western Australia, -1.7% in the ACT and -1% in the NT.

Tasmania was a bloodbath for Labor, which lost three of its four seats and saw its high-profile attempt to unseat maverick independent MP Andrew Wilkie in Denison (Hobart) fall flat on its face, with Wilkie taking 65.6% of the 2CP vote against Labor. Labor had performed extremely well in Tasmania in 2010 (61% 2PP, up from 56% in 2007), despite losing Denison to Wilkie, so in part this result is a slight correction of that result. However, it is more than just that- Tasmania is a strong state for Labor, which won the 2PP in the state in all four of Howard’s victories, including 1996 and 2004. The likely reason for the huge swing against Labor is the very unpopular Labor-Green state government, which will certainly be booted out of office a la QLD/NSW Labor in next year’s election. The Greens seem to have been adversely impacted by their support of that government as well – in one of the Greens’ oldest strongholds, the Green vote fell by 8.7% since 2010!

Only Labor’s Julie Collins was able to retain Franklin, Hobart’s suburban electorate, with a less catastrophic 5.7% swing against Labor (55-45 on 2PP).

The swing against Labor in Victoria is most likely due to the ‘removal’ of Julia Gillard’s favourite daughter effect, which had meant that Victoria recorded a counter-cyclical 1% swing to Labor in the 2010 election, which allowed Labor to gain the seats of La Trobe and McEwen from the Liberals, the only two seats which Labor gained in the last election. The Liberals have regained La Trobe and while McEwen is too close to call. Both are middle-class ‘mortgage belt’ suburban seats; the former in eastern Melbourne, the later in Melbourne’s northern outer suburbs (mixed with rural areas). Despite a very favourable redistribution for Labor since 2010 (a 9% notional margin), McEwen is on a knife’s edge, with Labor holding a 97 vote lead (as of Sept. 15) although the Liberals may still pull ahead. LaTrobe, which had a much smaller 1.7% ALP margin, saw a 5.6% swing to the Liberals giving them a 54-46 2PP win.

The Liberals predictably gained two very marginal Labor-held seats, Corangamite and Deakin, both of which were gained from the Liberals in 2007 and had a 0.3% and 0.6% Labor margin respectively. The Liberals took 54% in Corangamite and 53% in Deakin.

Labor held Chisholm and Bruce, two multiethnic suburban seats in eastern Melbourne, with around 51.5% of the 2PP. Despite a heavy 8% swing to the Liberals, they also held Bendigo, with 51% of the 2PP. Otherwise, Labor held its strongholds in Melbourne’s historically working-class northern and western suburbs, while the Coalition retained its safe seats in Melbourne’s more affluent suburban electorates and in rural areas.

Prime Minister Gillard’s former seat of Lalor saw a large 10% swing against Labor, likely a product of her retirement and the ‘removal’ of any personal votes she had won in 2010.

The inner-city bohemian seat of Melbourne, which elected the first Green member in the 2010 election in the person of Adam Bandt (ignoring the Cunningham by-election win for the Greens in NSW in 2002), was a hotly contested fight this year between Labor and the Greens. Many thought that the Greens would lose the seat back to Labor, which had held the seat since 1904 prior to 2010. Bandt’s comfortable victory in 2010, with a 6% margin, owed a lot to Liberal preferences – about 80% of Liberal preferences flowed to the Greens ahead of Labor on the final count. However, unlike in 2010, the Liberals decided to instruct their supporters to preference Labor ahead of the Greens, something which likely cost the Greens a lot in the last state election in Victoria and last year’s state by-election in Melbourne. However, Bandt was able to survive with a solid majority – 54.9% of the 2CP, representing a tiny 1% swing to Labor. More importantly, he increased his primary vote by 6.9% to 42.5%, while Labor’s primary vote fell 11 points. In an otherwise unpleasant night for the Greens, Bandt’s handsome reelection in Melbourne was a huge morale booster for the Greens.

The seat which everybody is watching is Indi, a rural and traditionally solidly Liberal seat held by Liberal frontbencher Sophie Mirabella since 2001. Mirabella, a vocal member of the Liberal Party’s right-wing, seems to be strongly disliked by a lot of people for a variety of reasons which I’m not entirely up-to-date on. Mirabella, who held her seat with a 9% margin over Labor in 2010, faced a strong challenge from Cathy McGowan, a local independent candidate who rallied a broad anti-Liberal/Mirabella coalition. The counting process has been quite crazy, most notably with the discovery of 1,000 votes for McGowan in a precinct. As of now, she leads by 515 votes. Based on votes left to count, the ABC and AEC have both called the race for McGowan.

Mallee, a rural seat which is the most conservative in the country, saw an acrimonious fight between the Coalition’s two partners: the Nationals, who have held the seat since its 1949 creation, and the Liberals, who hadn’t contested the seat since 1993 (when they came within 0.5% of winning the seat). The Nats were clearly displeased at the Liberal Party’s decision to run a candidate, apparently over Abbott’s objections. However, the Nats were able to hold their stronghold with a comfortable majority, taking 39% of the primary vote (against the Liberals’ 27%) and 56% of the 2CP.

In New South Wales, the Coalition parties gained at least eight seats (with a possibility for a ninth) from Labor. In 2010, with a nearly 5% swing to the Coalition, it had managed to net only four seats from Labor – a tactical ‘win’ for Labor. This year, ironically, a smaller swing to the Coalition parties gave them ten extra seats (two gains from independents).

In suburban Sydney, the Liberals gained Lindsay, Banks and Reid – three seats with narrow Labor margins (between 1% and 2.7%). Lindsay has a big place in Australian electoral folklore because it is an outer suburban seat which has come to represent John Howard’s electoral constituency: upwardly-mobile skilled workers on good incomes, in suburban areas with low non-white populations. The Liberals gained previously solidly Labor seat in 1996, and held it until Rudd’s first victory in 2007, when it returned to Labor with a solid majority. But in 2010, it was Labor’s third most marginal seat in NSW, with a 1.1% margin. This year, Liberal candidate Fiona Scott – the candidate which Abbott said had ‘sex appeal’ – won with 53% of 2PP votes, a 4% swing to the Liberals.

The Liberal gains in Banks and Reid, two suburban (southwestern and western suburbs respectively) seats with narrow Labor majorities, mark the first Liberal victories in both those seats in many decades – a mix of a sharp swing across Sydney in the 2010 election and the effects of redistribution in recent years. On swings slightly larger than the state-wide swing, the Liberals gained both seats. These suburban electorates are divided between Labor-leaning lower-income and multiethnic neighborhoods and affluent Liberal-leaning waterfront neighborhoods.

In Sydney’s western suburbs, the division of Parramatta is on a knife’s edge as of writing, with a 482 vote margin for the Labor incumbent in this ethnically diverse middle-class suburban electorate. There was a 4% swing to the Liberals. This is the only seat where the ABC hasn’t made a prediction yet, and it could realistically go both ways.

Unsurprisingly, the second tightest Labor-held seat, Robertson, an outer suburban bellwether seat on the Central Coast north of Sydney, also fell to the Liberals, with a 4% swing giving them a 54% win on 2PP. Again on the Central Coast, the Liberals also gained the division of Dobell, held by Labor-turned-independent embattled MP Craig Thomson. Labor’s nomination was problematic and messy, and settled only at the last minute. Thomson ran for reelection as an independent, but thoroughly discredited as he is, he only won 4% of the vote. The Liberals recorded a 5.9% swing in their favour, allowing them to gain the seat with 50.8% of the 2PP vote (a 1,303 vote margin as of now).

Slightly more surprising, however, is the Liberal gain in Barton, a seat which Labor had held with about 57% of the 2PP in 2010 despite a heavy 8% swing against it. However, the seat’s longtime member, Robert McClelland, a prominent Rudd supporter turfed from Gillard’s cabinet in 2012, retired and the Labor nomination was closely disputed. I would suppose this partly explains the unusually large 7.5% swing to the Liberals, which allowed them to pick up the seat – held by Labor since 1983 – with a 895 vote majority as of now.

However, the most marginal Labor seat in NSW, Greenway (a mortgage belt seat, similar to Lindsay), didn’t move. After a major redistribution which turned a fairly safe Liberal seat into a notionally Labor seat, Labor took the new Greenway in 2010, with a very narrow 0.9% margin. As such, it should have been a top Liberal target, but the Liberals were compelled in the end to select 2010 candidate Jaymes Diaz. Diaz, however, got lots of unwanted media attention when he was unable to list the six points in the Liberals’ ‘six-point plan’ to ‘stop the boats’. His candidacy’s collapse likely explains why Labor managed to hold this seat – and record a net swing in its favour of 2.6%. The Labor MP was reelected with 53.5% of the 2PP vote.

Outside Sydney, the Liberals gained Eden-Monaro, a bellwether seat extending from Canberra’s public servant-laden suburbs to coastal towns. Labor, which had picked up the seat in 2007, put up a good fight but was overwhelmed by the state-wide swing to the Liberals, who had a 4.7% swing in their favour in the seat and hold, as of now, a 862 vote lead over the Labor incumbent who has nevertheless conceded defeat.

The Nationals picked up Page from Labor, in rural northeastern NSW. The seat had a 4% Labor margin, but the Nationals won it comfortably after a fairly hefty 7% swing against Labor. The Nationals also gained two seats, New England and Lyne, which were held by the pro-Gillard independents Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeshott respectively. Both of them retired before the election, certainly sensing that they would lose their seats by a wide margin if they ran for reelection – both of their seats, especially New England, are conservative strongholds (the Nats would have won over 60% in Lyne and over 66% in New England in a 2PP contest against Labor in 2010). The Nationals nominated Queensland Senator (and incoming Nat Deputy Leader) Barnaby Joyce in New England, after an earlier bid to select independent state MP Richard Torbay fell through when Torbay was forced to resign his own seat after corruption allegations earlier this year. The Nats won 71% of the 2PP in New England and 65% in Lyne.

The Sydney inner-city seat of Grayndler, an old Labor stronghold similar to Melbourne – where gentrification and demographic changes have altered the electorate’s character and made the Greens a strong threat to Labor – saw the Greens fall back this year. In 2010, the Greens finally overtook the Liberals on first preferences and won 46% of the 2CP vote against Labor MP Anthony Albanese. However, this year, the Greens fell back into third on the primaries, winning 22.9% (about 3 points less than in 2010) to the Liberals’ 24.7% and Albo’s 47.5%. Obviously, in a Labor-Liberal 2PP contest, Grayndler is one of Labor’s safest seats in Australia – Albanese was reelected with 70.5% of the 2PP vote. In next-door Sydney, which has a slightly stronger Liberal base which has thus far kept the Greens at bay, the Green vote fell by 6%, to 17.4%, nearly 13% behind the Liberals. Labor held the seat handily on the back of Green preferences, with 63.7% of the 2PP.

Otherwise, the other seats conformed to their political traditions. The Liberals won by huge margins their Northern Sydney strongholds, including Abbott’s Warringah seat and Malcolm Turnbull’s division of Wentworth; these are the most affluent areas in all of Australia. In contrast, Labor held their working-class/low-income/multiethnic western and southwestern suburban seats. As in 2010, the swings in the Labor stronghold of Fowler proved bizarre – in 2010, Fowler, likely as a result of factional wranglings created by redistribution and MPs playing musical chairs in the area (which meant Fowler’s MP retiring and being replaced by a sitting MP from another seat), had the largest swing against Labor in the country (a 13% swing) which reduced Labor’s margin from 23% to 9% (!). This year, Labor MP Chris Hayes was reelected – but enjoyed a 9% swing to Labor, by far the biggest counter-cyclical swing this year. He won 67.7% of the 2PP and the Liberal primary vote collapsed by 11%.

Labor held their working-class turf in Wollongong and in the coal mining Hunter Valley (including Newcastle), although the division of Hunter – where coal mining remains a significant employer – now has a fairly anemic Labor margin of 3.8% after a big 9% swing to the Nats. The Liberals and the Nats won the other rural or coastal retiree/touristy seats by the usual margins.

After swinging hard against Julia Gillard’s Labor in 2010 – as a result of Kevin Rudd’s favourite son effect being removed and a very unpopular state government – Queensland largely stayed put in 2013, with a few safe Coalition seats and two Labor seats even swinging to Labor. Kevin Rudd likely saved a lot of seats for his party in Queensland, although it held only 8 out of the state’s 30 seats. Nevertheless, Labor lost two seats in Queensland, both by small margins.

The rural mining/working-class division of Capricornia, in central Queensland (covering Rockhampton), currently has a narrow 872 vote LNP lead, which should hold up. Labor was defending a tight 3.7% margin, and the swing to the LNP – 4.2% – was just enough to wipe that out. Similarly, in Petrie, a suburban swing seat north of Brisbane, a 3.2% swing to the LibNats wiped out Labor’s 2.5% margin. The LNP won the seat with 50.7% of the 2PP. Labor, however, prided itself on its ability to hold its other seats – including its most marginal Queensland electorate, Moreton, which had a 1.1% ALP margin in 2010. Moreton is Queensland’s most ethnically diverse seat, something which might be helping Labor in a seat which voted Liberal by tight margins throughout Howard’s four elections. The Labor incumbent bucked the trend, and with a small 0.5% swing in his favour, he increased his margin by a hair (to 51.6% 2PP). In Griffith (a rather gentrified and affluent inner-city professional seat), Kevin Rudd was reelected despite a strong 5.5% swing to the LNP. Rudd took only 53% of the 2PP, which appears to be his weakest result since his first victory in Griffith back in 1998.

Julia Gillard’s Treasurer, Wayne Swan, was also able to survive in his marginal suburban electorate of Lilley, resisting a 1.7% swing to the LNP to win with 51% of the 2PP.

However, Labor was unable to gain any seats in Queensland – despite some thinking that Rudd would allow the party to regain some lost ground from 2010. In the LNP-held mortgage belt seat of Forde, former Queensland Premier Peter Beattie was defeated in his high-profile bid to unseat a LNP freshman elected in 2010, taking only 45.6% of the 2PP. Similarly, the downtown seat of Brisbane, a surprise LNP pickup in 2010, remained firmly in LNP hands with an expanded majority.

Clive Palmer appears to have been successful in his attempt win the Sunshine Coast seat of Fairfax from the LNP. He won 26.8% of the primary vote, against 41.4% for the LNP and 18.1% for Labor. The LNP primary vote fell by 8% and the Labor vote by 9%.  It seems as if Labor preferences flowed heavily towards Palmer, who currently holds a 502 vote lead on the 2CP against the LNP incumbent. Just directly south of Fairfax, in Fisher, another PUP candidate managed to overtake Labor on preferences and win 46.1% of the 2CP. Peter Slipper, running for reelection in Fisher as an independent, won only 1.5%.

Bob Katter’s sprawling rural seat of Kennedy saw a surprisingly big swing against Katter, who nevertheless managed reelection – but with the closest margin, by far, since he first won the seat in 2001. There was a huge 17% swing against Katter on primary votes, giving him only 29.4% of primary votes against 41.2% for the LNP and 16.4% for Labor. He won, likely on Labor preferences, with 52.1% of the 2CP, but suffered a 16% swing against him on 2CP as well. It seems as if Katter’s partial preference deal with Labor in some seats might have hurt him, as well as Clive Palmer stealing his thunder and capitalizing on protest votes.

The swing against Labor was much stronger in South Australia, which is both a ‘correction’ from Labor’s excellent SA result in 2010 and an unpopular state Labor government facing an uphill battle for reelection in 2014. However, despite a 5.5% swing to the Coalition, Labor’s seats were all quite entrenched, therefore the Coalition only picked up one seat – Hindmarsh, in Adelaide’s western suburbs. With a large 8.1% swing against the ALP, the Liberals gained the seat with 52% of the 2PP vote. However, all other Labor seats held tight – in Adelaide, the city’s inner-city/downtown electorate which has some Liberal-voting affluent areas, there was only a ‘small’ 3.7% swing to the Coalition, and Labor held the seat with 54% of the 2PP. Makin and Wakefield, two other Labor-held suburban Adelaide seats which had recorded large swings to Labor in 2010, both saw fairly substantial swings back to the Liberals (who won both of them in 2004), but the Labor margin (after 2007 and 2010 swings) has become so large that Labor was reelected in both with handsome numbers: 55.5% in Makin (a mixed outer suburban mortage belt and lower-income inner suburban seat) and 53.6% in Wakefield (a mixed seat including conservative rural areas and a working-class suburban ALP stronghold).

Labor held Kingston and Port Adelaide, two lower-income suburban seats in north and south Adelaide respectively, with over 60% of the 2PP.

However, the sharp swing towards the Coalition allowed them to shore up their two marginal seats in Adelaide – Boothby and Sturt, taking 57.5% and 60% of the 2PP respectively in those seats which they had won by only 0.6% and 3.6% in 2010. Naturally, the Liberals held their two rural/Outback seats by very big margins.

In Western Australia, Australia’s most right-leaning state (along with Queensland), Labor held their three seats in the Perth area and the Coalition held their seats, although the Outback seat of O’Connor switched from the WA Nationals to the Liberals.

There were only small swings to the Coalition in Labor’s three seats, the largest being a 1.1% swing in Perth (a mix of inner-city bohemia and multiethnic areas). Labor’s most vulnerable seat, Brand, which covers the industrial city of Rockingham and southern Perth suburbs, only saw a small 0.8% swing to the Liberals, and Labor retained the seat with 52.5% of the 2PP.

In a better year for Labor, they might have had a shot at retaking a few Liberal marginals such as Swan (a mix of low-income and affluent areas, lost in 2007) or Hasluck (a mix of lower-income suburbs and middle-class mortgage belt, lost in 2010). However, the swings to the Coalition were above the WA state average in both those seats (there were also large swings to the Liberals in the mortgage belt seat of Canning, where Labor did abnormally well in 2010, and the suburban seat of Stirling).

Perhaps more interesting, however, were the results in WA’s two large Outback seats. O’Connor, which covers the south of WA’s Wheatbelt and the southern mining district, was won by the WA Nationals’ Tony Crook in 2010, who defeated controversial hard-right Liberal MP Wilson Tuckey in one of 2010’s more memorable results. Crook sat on the crossbench but backed the Coalition until 2012, when he joined the Coalition. He did not run for reelection. The Liberals were widely expected to regain the seat, and they did, although the Nationals put up a very strong fight despite a less controversial Liberal candidate and Crook’s retirement. In fact, the Nat primary vote only fell by 3.5% (and the Liberal primary vote barely increased) and they won 49.1% on the 2CP against the Liberals. In Durack, a remote seat covering the sparsely populated arid mining regions in the north as well as the north of WA’s Wheatbelt, the Nationals had a strong performance. Their primary vote increased by nearly 6 points to 23.6%, allowing them to overtake Labor (20.2%) and reduce the Liberal primary vote by 6.7%. The Liberals were likely hurt by the retirement of the seat’s MP, who had held the seat (known as Kalgoorlie until 2010) since 1998. On 2CP, the Liberals won with 54.2%.

In the Northern Territory, both seats – one (Solomon, the urban seat covering Darwin) held by the Country Liberals and the other (Lingiari, the Outback seat with a large Aboriginal population) by Labor – were both marginals with a chance of falling, but their respective incumbents were both reelected with limited swings. The CLP held Solomon, which saw a small 0.6% swing to Labor, which was somewhat confident of its chances in a seat which it held for a term in 2007. In Lingiari, heavy swings to the CLP in the 2012 territorial election throughout NT’s remote areas led some to think that longtime Labor MP Warren Snowdon might lose reelection. As of now, he appears to have won – though with a small 705 vote majority over the CLP, which saw a 2.9% swing in its favour in the seat.

In the ACT (Canberra), Labor held both seats by wide margins.

The AEC has some pages detailing the 2PP swings: by seat status here or by demographic classification here. Overall, unlike in, say, 2004, there was no sharp, widespread swing to the Coalition in mortgage belt-type seats. Indeed, according to the AEC’s data, the swing against Labor was stronger in inner metro areas (-4.8%) and in ‘provincial’ (small town) areas (-4.2%) than in outer metro suburban areas (-3.7%). By seat status, the largest swings against Labor were in Labor-held marginals (-5%) and in safe or fairly safe Coalition seats (-5.6%, -6%). Swings in safe Labor seats were rather limited, at -1.8%.

The Guardian‘s excellent Data Blog did an analysis of Palmer’s votes by division, comparing it to census data. Palmer’s vote was clearly strongest, by a long shot, in Queensland, a natural breeding ground for right-populism, such as the one embodied in the past by Sir Joh’s Nats or more recently by Pauline Hanson’s far-right One Nation. This map shows the PUP’s first prefs by division.

The Guardian‘s analysis found that Palmer’s support was concentrated in lower-income, rural and suburban seats; sometimes working-class but almost always with low levels of professionals. The above map certainly confirms that, both at much higher levels in QLD but also at lower levels in other states such as NSW or Victoria. All in all, Palmer attracted protest votes from disenchanted voters in economically deprived or declining areas, with lower levels of education and more blue-collar jobs – which is roughly the complete opposite of the Greens’ electorate.

Detailed results – the Senate

Ah, the Senate. What a mess. The quirks of STV and the workings of preference deals between parties (which are very important given how people vote above the line most of the time) have always meant that small parties are able to elect a senator or two out of nowhere. In 2004, Family First elected a senator from Victoria. In 2010, the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) elected a senator from Victoria. This year saw a total mess.

In New South Wales, the main highlight (or oddity) of the election was the Liberal Democrats (LDP), a libertarian pro-gun and anti-tax party, which seems to have won a seat by taking nearly 9%. The LDP took about 1.8% in NSW in the last election, so unless there was a huge swing to the small and relatively anonymous party since 2010 (and only at the Senate level in a single state), the most likely explanation for the LDP’s huge showing is that it was an accident and a fluke. The LDP was placed first on the huge ballot paper, and the name “Liberal” likely confused some voters who thought they were going to vote for the Liberal/National ticket. The Liberal/National ticket won only 34.8% of the vote, down over 4% on their 2010 showing, and much lower than the 47% won by both parties in first prefs for the House. The ABC’s results page details the various counts, showing the redistribution of surplus from the two main parties, and the later transfers from excluded parties which benefit the LDP. Notably, the LDP received preferences in the final counts from the DLP, which itself won an unusually strong 1.5% (again, they were placed high on the ballot and the name might have confused voters). Overall, a bunch of minor parties fed the LDP’s victory: things called ‘Smokers Rights’, ‘Stop the Greens’, the Sex Party, Wikileaks, KAP and random other parties. As of now, the results seem pretty set in stone. The Greens, who had not won a Senate seat from NSW in 2007 but did so in 2010, will be disappointed to have been shut out. They won 7.6% of the vote.

Victoria usually elects, unlike NSW, some micro-parties – Family First’s Steve Fielding in 2004, elected with Labor and Democrats preferences, and the DLP’s John Madigan in 2010, on the back of transfers from other micro-parties which allowed him to overtake Fielding and, with Family First preferences, deny the Coalition a second seat. Both Family First and the DLP had a small but substantial enough base originally for their victories to not be all that egregious. However, this year, it appears as if the Australian Motoring Enthusiast Party, with 0.5% of the vote, is on track to win a seat. The new ‘motoring enthusiast’ senator from Victoria, Ricky Muir, seems to be quite the colourful character: a YouTube video showed him in a backyard ‘kangaroo poo fight’ with his brother, his Facebook and Twitter pages apparently included some weird jokes (about George W. Bush being responsible for 9/11, or prostitutes being like buying a car) or questionable tastes in music (a song which apparently starts with lyrics saying ‘I don’t respect women, I just want to have sex with them’). His election is due to preference deals and coming out lucky on transfers. With 0.5%, he was nearing elimination, but transfers first from the Fishing and Lifestyle Party and later from various other parties (a marijuana legalization party, Shooters and Fishers, far-right Rise Up Australia Party, Sex Party; but also, later down, from Family First, the PUP, KAP and the DLP) all give him a narrow victory over the Coalition’s third candidate in the 37th count. The Coalition took 40.4% of the vote, 2.83 quotas, which, combined with poor transfers from minor parties (who, out of shared hostility to large parties, often direct preferences to other minor parties before the major parties) mean that incumbent senator Helen Kroger. Muir’s election seems to be holding up, on Count 22 he would need to fall behind two parties to be eliminated. It appears that his elimination would elect a third Liberal senator.

The Greens won 10.8%, or 0.75 quotas, which turns out to be enough for them to elect a second senator from Victoria – they had missed out on a seat in 2007. On a side note, Julian Assange’s high-profile Senate candidacy for the ‘Wikileaks Party’ went nowhere, winning only 1.15% of the vote. Assange’s candidacy took a blow as a result of publicity surrounding controversial preference deals with far-right parties in other states (although the party said it was an error), which led Assange’s running mate resigning.

Queensland‘s results were quite straight-forward. The LNP won 40.9%, or 2.9 quotas, and won three seats. Labor’s vote ended up half a percent behind its 2010 result, at 28.9%, while the Green vote – abnormally high in 2010 because of ‘Kevin 07’ Labor voters voting Green in 2010 – fell 6.7 points to 6.1%. Palmer’s party, led by former rugby player Glenn Lazarus, took 10.2%. Katter’s party, which nominated well-known country singer James Blundell, won only 2.8% – likely an extremely disappointing showing for them, who had been hoping to pick up a seat with Labor’s help (Labor distributed their second preferences to the KAP rather than the Greens in QLD). The seat distribution of 3 LNP, 2 Labor and one for Glenn Lazarus (PUP) seems final. Some LibNats might have fancied a repeat of 2004’s spectacular election of 4 Coalition senators, but Palmer’s strong showing likely made a repeat of that once-in-a-lifetime event impossible this year.

Western Australia likely takes the prize for freak result this year. In the past, it was fairly conventional in its Senate voting patterns, electing 3 from the Liberals and 2 from Labor, with the last seat going to the Greens or the Democrats. This year, Labor seems to have fallen to only one out of six seats, with the Greens taking the second ‘left seat’, the Liberals holding their three seats and the last one going, it appears, to the Australian Sports Party, which won only 0.22% of the vote on first count.

The Liberals took 39.6%, down about 3% on 2010, while the Nationals won 4.2%, which, because of lack of transfers from minor parties, is not enough to give the WA Nationals a seat. Labor’s vote fell by 2.5%, winning 27.3%, which is 1.9 quotas, barely missing out on a second seat. The Greens, who were defending a seat here with Senator Scott Ludlam, known for his vocal advocacy of Julian Assange (but Wikileaks preferenced the Democrats and Nats ahead of the Greens…), won 9.7%, down about 4.3% since 2010.

Wayne Dropulich from the Australian Sports Party narrowly misses out on exclusion on the ninth count, where he is in penultimate position right ahead of ‘No Carbon Tax Climate Sceptics’, and on the eleventh count where he is third from last. However, on the current numbers, which have been held up since election night, Wayne Dropulich is able to win by harvesting most of the minor party vote (notably Rise Up Australia, Motoring Enthusiast Party, Family First, Wikileaks, Shooters and Fishers, Australian Christians, Sex Party, Fishing and Lifestyle Party, LDP) and the Liberal Party’s surplus. If he drops out, apparently the next in line for a seat would be the Palmer party’s candidate (the PUP won 5.2%), whose preferences currently transfer to the Greens and elect Scott Ludlam ahead of Labor in the final count. If the PUP candidate were to win, the race between the Greens and Labor for the second ‘left seat’ would be very hot. At present, Labor’s poor showing means that incumbent ALP Left Senator Louise Pratt, a vocal supporter of gay rights and same-sex marriage, loses out and Labor’s only seat goes to Right heavyweight Joe Bullock.

In South Australia, the main surprise was the excellent showing by incumbent independent Senator Nick Xenophon, first elected to the Senate in 2007 as an anti-pokies (slot machines) independent. The Xenophon ticket won 25.6% of the vote, placing second ahead of Labor (22.6%), whose vote fell 15.7% from 2010. The Liberals, with 27.4%, also suffered from Xenophon’s success, their vote fell by nearly 10%. The Greens, who were defending a seat with incumbent Senator Sarah Hanson-Young, won 7%, their vote down 6.3% from 2010.

Nick Xenophon is a noted anti-pokies/anti-gambling who was elected to the SA Legislative Council (upper house) in 1997 and handsomely reelected in 2006 with 20.5%, enough to elect a second No Pokies candidate. He ran for the federal Senate in 2007, winning fairly easily with 14.8% of first prefs. Xenophon’s work has focused on gambling reform (along with independent MP Andrew Wilkie since 2010), consumer protection/anti-monopoly measures and vocal and vociferous opposition to Scientology; all in all, a fairly left-of-centre record, although he voted against the carbon tax in 2011. Xenophon’s popularity (and high profile) stems in part from his deft hand at media stunts of all kinds. His popularity is also due to his record as an independent ‘voice’ for his state and a general anti-establishment and anti-politician image.

Xenophon’s vote gives him a 1.79 quota, but it is not enough to bring his running mate over the top. Xenophon has blamed “bizarre and some would say spiteful” preference deals; he also criticized Labor and the Liberals for preferencing Family First ahead of his tickets. Few of the minor parties preferred his running mate over incumbent Liberal Senator Simon Birmingham, who wins the last seat with 15.9% against 12.6% for Xenophon’s second candidate.

The socially conservative Family First party, which won 3.7% of the vote, is currently winning a seat with Bob Day, a housing tycoon and former Liberal candidate. He risks exclusion on the 29th count, where he is second to last ahead of the LDP, but after that point he roars ahead to win a seat with LDP, minor right-wing parties and Labor preferences. Most of his votes then transfer to elect Liberal Senator Simon Birmingham on the last count. If Bob Day came to be excluded, the last seat would likely go to the LDP.

Green Senator Sarah Hanson-Young manages to win reelection, which was seen as an uphill battle for her, with the help of PUP, Sex Party and Labor preferences (among others). The Xenophon vote means that Labor has won only one seat, like in WA, a catastrophic result because, again like in WA, Labor had always managed to win at least two out of six seats in the six half-senate elections held since 1990. This result means that Labor Senator Don Farrell, a ALP Right union state leader, loses reelection – he will likely regret conceding the top spot on the Labor ticket to outgoing Finance Minister and incumbent Senator Penny Wong.

Tasmania‘s sharp swing against Labor and the Greens in this election meant that the state’s unique ‘four left, two right’ configuration in 2007 and 2010 will not survive. The Labor vote fell by 8.3% to 33.1% and the Green vote, off a high of nearly 20% in 2010, fell by 8.9% to only 11.4%. The Liberal vote increased by a more modest 4.8%, to 37.7%. The Greens were defending a seat, with a new senator, Peter Whish-Wilson, who replaced former Green leader (and a major icon in the Australian Green movement) Bob Brown in 2012.

The PUP won 6.6% of the vote and were originally predicted to win a seat, but the PUP’s candidate is now eliminated on count 24, when she finishes behind the LDP when the Green surplus is redistributed (the Greens won their seat on Labor preferences). In turn, the PUP’s vote transfers heavily to the Liberals, who win the last seat easily ahead of the LDP. Therefore, the Liberals win a third Senate seat, something which last happened in 2004 when Howard’s Liberals did well in Tasmania, riding a backlash against Labor leader Mark Latham’s unpopular forestry policy. However, while that third seat should hold up now, it is a closely disputed one – on the 24th count, the Liberals, LDP and PUP are all basically tied up at 9-10% apiece. The LDP, which won 2.3%, once again manage to do so well because they rake in preferences from a lot of minor right-wing parties, some of which polled fairly well too.

Senate races in the territories, which have only two seats each, are less favourable to minor parties, because the quota is much higher. Therefore, the ACT and the NT have always elected one Labor, one Liberal/CLP senator. The Greens, very strong in the ACT (23% in 2010), sought to disturb that order this year by picking off the ACT’s second seat from the Liberals. In the NT, some had said that the First Nations Political Party could pick up a seat given that all parties ranked them ahead of Labor.

In the ACT, Labor won 34.8% (down 6%), the Liberals 33.6% and the Greens won 18.8%, down 4.4%. Hence, Labor and the Liberals both polled just above the quota for a seat, and the Greens are shut out. They would have had a tough time winning the seat at any rate, even if they had overtaken the Liberals, because the Liberals were now placing the Greens in last position on preferences.

In the NT, the CLP won 41.4% and Labor 33.2% (just below the quota). The First Nations party won only 1.5%, and they’re excluded on the seventh count. Labor wins the second seat on the tenth count, without any suspense. The Labor preselection was quite contentious here: Julia Gillard handpicked Nova Peris, an Aboriginal woman Olympic athlete, and pushed out incumbent (pro-Rudd) senator Trish Crossin. Rudd didn’t overturn his predecessor’s controversial selection, though.

The Senate’s unusually bizarre results has put Senate electoral reform on the table, and the incoming government has said it will address the issue. Proposals include allowing voters to preference tickets when voting above the line (so parties don’t decide how your vote is used) or setting a threshold to qualify for seats (and exclude tiny parties).


Tony Abbott is the new Prime Minister of Australia, until 2016. What can be expected from the new Coalition government? On economic policy, it doesn’t seem as if any major changes are to be expected, with the exception of public sector job cuts, a pretty big reduction in foreign aid and probably a testy relationship with public broadcasting. However, massive austerity cuts do not seem to be on the agenda, given that Abbott’s debt/deficit reduction plan doesn’t appear all that radical or ambitious (or extremely different, on the whole, from Labor’s fiscal policy since 2007).

On immigration, a tough stance in continuation of Howard’s Pacific Solution and Rudd’s new PNG/Nauru Solution is on the agenda. The Coalition broadly supported the main outlines of Rudd’s PNG/Nauru Solution. However, Indonesia has already indicated its opposition to Abbott’s military-led ‘turn the boats back’ plan, but especially a Liberal plan to buy potential asylum seekers boats from Indonesian fishermen. As a result, Australian-Indonesian relations might sour a bit. Incoming Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, the Liberal Deputy Leader, has her work cut out for her in negotiations with Indonesia.

What most people will be watching is whether or not Abbott will be able to repeal the carbon tax. He has a majority in the House, meaning that upcoming legislation to scrap Gillard’s carbon tax will easily pass the House. However, in Australia’s near-perfect bicameral system, such legislation will also need to pass the Senate. The Coalition, unlike in 2004, does not have a Senate majority. On top of that, the senators elected on September 7 will only take office on July 1, 2014. Labor and the Greens have reiterated their opposition to a repeal of the carbon tax – in the new Senate, they will have 35 seats (39 required for a majority), in the Senate which serves until 2014 they have a majority (40 seats). Tony Abbott has threatened to call a double dissolution election if the Senate rejects his repeal of the carbon tax, and both Labor and the Greens still appear ready to go into a double dissolution election on that issue.

Assuming the Senate votes on the carbon tax repeal after July 2014, the Labor-Green opposition would need four extra votes against repeal. Nick Xenophon, although he voted against the tax in 2011, is critical of the Coalition’s Direct Action plan and is currently on record as being against a repeal of the carbon tax although he wants to sit down with talks with new Environment Minister Greg Hunt. The LDP, Family First and likely PUP and DLP as well would vote in favour of repealing the carbon tax. Therefore, if the post-2014 Senate voted on the carbon tax, the repeal would likely depend on what the two novice and surprise Senators from the ‘motoring enthusiasts’ and the ‘Sports Party’ decide to do, although I have a hard time seeing ‘motoring enthusiasts’ falling in love with the carbon tax.

The Coalition will also need to find a Senate majority in favour of the mining tax repeal, which again appears unlikely until July 2014 with Labor and the Greens still holding a majority until then.

Abbott is socially conservative, seemingly more so than John Howard and certainly much more so than Malcolm Fraser. However, he will not make abortion an issue during his government. That being said, it seems pretty clear that Australia won’t legalize same-sex marriage between now and 2016.

The next question is what happens with Labor. Kevin Rudd stood down as Labor leader on election night, but new Labor leadership rules introduced earlier this year means that, for the first time, Labor’s national membership will join the caucus in selecting the party’s leader (both would have an equal weight in the process); and removing a leader before the next election would require a petition signed by three-fifths of the caucus. These new rules have been criticized by Julia Gillard as well as factional warlords, who are obviously not to keen on handing half of the leadership selection process to the wider membership (whose views might very well be out of sync with Labor parliamentarians – just look at how Kevin Rudd was much more popular with the electorate than with the ALP caucus). Besides, Labor – unlike other parties in Canada or the UK – is not used to ‘interim leaders’ and therefore seems to be quite in a hurry to get a permanent leader.

The next leadership battle seems set to be a battle between Victoria Right MP Bill Shorten and NSW Left MP Anthony Albanese (the outgoing Deputy PM and Deputy Leader). All odds seem to be in Shorten’s favour.

Bill Shorten, a former union (AWU, associated to the Right) leader was first elected to Parliament in 2007 and emerged as a leading factional powerbroker, whose influence was decisive in toppling Rudd in 2010 and later toppling Gillard in June 2013. He entered cabinet in 2010 as Minister of Financial Services and Superannuation, received the portfolio of Workplace Relations in 2011 and was further promoted to Minister of Education in Rudd’s second cabinet. Albanese, however, has no union background having served in Parliament as MP for Grayndler since 1996. A key leader of the ALP’s Left faction and supportive of progressive causes such as same-sex marriage, Albanese served as Minister for Infrastructure and Transport throughout Labor’s two terms in office, also serving as Leader of the Government in the House. Albanese backed Rudd in his unsuccessful 2012 leadership bid, and became Deputy Leader of the party in June 2013 alongside Kevin Rudd. He also served as Deputy Prime Minister under Rudd since June.

Next posts: Norway (Sept. 9), Bavaria (Sept. 15), Germany (Sept. 22), Austria (Sept. 29)

Queensland (Australia) 2012

State elections were held in the Australian state of Queensland on March 24, 2012. All 89 members of Queensland’s Legislative Assembly were up for reelection. Queensland’s legislature is unicameral and has been since the state’s upper house was abolished (by its own members voting for its dissolution) in 1922. All other states in Australia retain elected bicameral legislatures. State elections since 1992 are run on the basis of optional preferential form of AV.

Queensland is the “Deep North” of Australia, similar to the United States’ “Deep South”. Like the American south, the traditional stereotype of Queensland is that of a rural, conservative and backwards state. Part of it likely comes from the fact that Queensland is slightly less urbanized than other Australian states. Less than half of the state’s population lives in Brisbane, the state capital, while in other Australian states this figure is often over 50% if not 60%. Queensland retains a good number of “regional towns” which have traditionally served as market towns for the state’s agricultural (sugar cane, cattle) and mining economy.

Queensland’s rich political history also contributes to the state’s reputation as Australia’s “redneck state”. While in the rest of Australia, the centre-right Liberal Party is usually the dominant force in Australia’s permanent right-wing Coalition alongside the much weaker agrarian and rural-based National Party, in Queensland the National Party has traditionally been the dominant force of the Coalition – though in the past that owed more to malapportionment than popular support. At any rate, the Country/National Party has had the upper hand in state government for most of the post-war era. The Country Party, as it was then known, won power in 1957. In 1968, power shifted to Queensland’s most emblematic political icon, Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen, who served as the state’s Country/National premier until 1987. Under Sir Joh’s semi-authoritarian rule, entrenched by the ‘Bjelkemander’ which served the interests of the rural-based Nationals, Queensland’s economy grew at a rapid pace under not so-clean circumstances: the government was notoriously corrupt and economic development on the Sunshine Coast was often done without much regard for the environment. Sir Joh ran the state with an iron hand and gained a nationwide reputation as a tough, authoritarian very conservative leader. Usually governing in coalition with a Liberal Party which he enjoyed enfeebling,  after a 1983 split between the two partners, the Nationals governed alone and in the process crushed the Liberals for over a decade. He was popular with rural voters, but in the 1970s Sir Joh’s Nationals were successful in expanding their appeal into the state’s rapidly growing and urbanizing areas in the southeast, first and foremost the state’s world-famous Gold Coast. Ultimately, Sir Joh’s magic wore off, in part after his disastrous bid to become Prime Minister of Australia.

In 1990, the Nationals were defeated by Wayne Goss’ Labor Party. The Coalition returned to power in 1996 following a by-election held shortly after the 1995 election. However, Premier Borbidge’s Nat-Lib coalition was severely weakened by the dramatic success of Pauline Hanson’s far-right One Nation Party in 1998 when the party placed second ahead of the Nationals and Liberals. In 2001, the Labor government under Peter Beattie won a landslide reelection. Labor’s huge majority was not seriously endangered by a divided and fledgling right-wing opposition in the 2004 and 2006 elections. In these elections, the Liberals re-emerged as the most voted right-wing party but the Nationals still won more seats than the Liberals. The Nationals retained predominance over the Coalition in Queensland, but the Nationals needed a Liberal resurgence in urban Brisbane – the ALP’s main base – in order to win power, but such a resurgence would have threatened their dominance of the Coalition in the state. The state’s unusual nature of intra-right politics made a merger between the Liberals and Nationals far more feasible in Queensland than in the rest of the country. In 2008, the two parties merged into the Liberal National Party (LNP).

Labor Premier Anna Bligh was narrowly reelected in 2009, defeated Lawrence Sprinborg’s LNP. The LNP, which in a way snatched defeat from the jaws of victory, found itself in a bit of a tough spot, but thankfully for the LNP, the ALP’s final term in office was a trainwreck similar to the ALP’s final term in NSW. Anna Bligh boosted her ratings after a competent handling of floods in the state in 2011, but the ALP faced voter fatigue after being in power for 21 of the 23 years. Voter fatigue rather than massively unpopular policies were more to blame. Following the ALP’s claw back in polls in the wake of the floods, the LNP successfully drafted the popular Lord Mayor of Brisbane, Campbell Newman, to become the LNP’s leader – albeit without a seat in the legislature. Newman announced his intentions to run in the ALP-held seat of Ashgrove.

Labor came out with corruption allegations on Newman, claiming that he had bribed a member to resign his seat to allow him to run in a by-election. In the campaign, these corruption allegations backfired on Labor as it became clear that they had little evidence and indeed Newman was cleared of any wrongdoing. At the end of the campaign, Labor was so certain of its defeat that it came out with crazy ad conceding defeat to the LNP but telling voters to not give the LNP too big of a majority.

Preliminary results are (first preferences only):

LNP 49.68% (+8.08%) winning 78 seats (+44)
ALP 26.95% (-15.3%) winning 7 seats (-44)
KAP 11.5% (+11.5%) winning 2 seats (+2)
Greens 7.27% (-1.1%) winning 0 seats (nc)
Family First 1.37% (+0.55%) winning 0 seats (nc)
ONP 0.1% (-0.28%) winning 0 seats (nc)
Others 3.14% (-3.44%) winning 2 seats (-2)

Preliminary map of Queensland results (source: Shane Smith on uselectionatlas)

Voters did not heed Labor’s pleas to limit the scope of the LNP’s victory. The ALP suffered a 15% swing and was reduced to a mere 7 seats. Premier Anna Bligh was one of the few ALP incumbents who saved their seats, the bulk of them being rock-solid poor suburban seats in and around Brisbane. Premier-elected Campbell Newman won the Labor-held seat of Ashgrove easily, taking 56% on 2PP after scoring 53% on first prefs against only 36% for the ALP incumbent.

After 14 straight years in power, if not a full 21/23 years, the ALP suffered the wrath of voters who were simply tired of a government which was exhausting itself. The suburban swing seats which often decide Australian elections swung heavily against the incumbent Labor government, in line with the rest of the state. Faced with a LNP led by a popular Brisbane-based figure, who ran on a platform which was ultimately not all that different from the ALP’s platform, is stood no chance. The ALP’s negative campaign against Newman did not help matters much. The negative campaign backfired against the Labor government.

In hindsight, the ALP will find itself regretting its narrow victory in 2009. It would have been in a much stronger position today if it had lost the 2009 election by a hair rather than winning it narrowly but losing by a phenomenal margin this year. Stuck in the unenviable position of being a tiny opposition bench to a government with a huge majority in the legislature, the ALP faces a long road to recovery. The Queensland right did not recover from its 2001 defeat until the LNP’s creation and the 2009 election. The Queensland ALP did not recover from its thumping in 1974 at Sir Joh’s hands until it returned to office in 1989. Unless the LNP performs poorly in government, it can be expected to win re-election fairly easily as the Queensland ALP, like the NSW ALP – which suffered a landslide defeat in 2011 (though, ironically, not as bad as this one) – licks its wounds.

The election saw the appearance of Katter’s Australian Party, a newly founded right-wing populist protectionist party led by the federal member for Kennedy, Bob Katter, who was a National until 2001. His newly formed party won two seats, with his son Rob picking up the rural ALP-held seat of Mount Isa (which is covered federally by Katter’s seat) and holding the neighbouring seat of Dalrymple which was held by a LNP defector to Katter’s populist party. Another sitting KAP member, Aidan McLindon (a LNP defector) was defeated by the LNP in the southern rural seat of Beaudesert. Katter’s rural populism, mixing Old Left economic views (opposition to privatization, deregulation; protectionism) and unabashed social conservatism has always found a receptive electorate in rural Queensland, perhaps getting to a base similar to that of Pauline Hanson’s One Nation party. Katter likely benefited from the support of rural populist National Party supporters who disapproved of the LNP’s new urban focus and “urban image” of Campbell Newman, a Liberal big city mayor.

Ultimately the election was fought more on state issues and the ALP’s defeat based heavily on the state ALP’s exhaustion after so long in power. Yet this is hardly a good sign for the federal ALP government. State and federal politics in Australia are much more related than in Canada, where they are almost entirely separate. Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s minority ALP government in Canberra still trails the opposition, led by Tony Abbott, in most polls. She recently fended off a leadership challenge from her predecessor, Kevin Rudd. The carbon tax and its handling has hurt the federal government, and the party has been found losing support leftwards to Greens (because of its tough stance of refugees, opposition to gay marriage and less aggressive climate policies) and rightwards to the Coalition (because of a perceived dependence on Green support and the carbon tax issue). The Coalition is not in a position to benefit more from the government’s troubles, because the very conservative Abbott remains a controversial and polarizing figure who perhaps cannot appeal as much to more centrist swing voters.

New South Wales (Australia) 2011

A general election was held in New South Wales, Australia on March 26, 2011. If you’re a left-winger of any shade or a supporter of the Australian Labor Party, you are not recommended to read this post as it may harm your emotional health.

NSW Labor has been in power since 1995, and the state has seen four Labor Premiers since then. The incumbent Premier is Kristina Keneally, in office since 2009. Being in power since 1995 brings the usual slew of unpopularity for a government, with a share of scandal, unpopular decisions and a general mood for change. This is especially true in NSW, where the Labor Party is known for its intense factionalism and a whole lot of backroom dealings and shady faction bosses. The Labor Right is the dominant faction of the NSW ALP, and seemingly Kristina Keneally, albeit personally competent and talented, was in power as their puppet. Her other claim to fame is that her initials are KKK.

In this context, the opposition Coalition led by Barry O’Farrell didn’t need to do much to sweep into office. Polls have showed the Coalition ahead on 2PP since 2008 and Labor has been under 40% of the 2PP since early 2010 and going down as low as 23% of primary votes. Results are still provisional, but given tomorrow’s interesting elections I didn’t feel like waiting a month.

Liberals 38.9% (+11.9%) winning 51 seats (+29)
Labor 25.5% (-13.5%) winning 22 seats (-30)
Nationals 12.3% (+2.2%) winning 17 seats (+4)
Independents 13.1% (-2%) winning 3 seats (-6)
Greens 10.3% (+1.4%) winning 0 seats (nc)

The Coalition has roughly 68 seats. Here are shaded maps of Sydney, the Central Coast, Illawarra and rural NSW.

Labor’s defeat is about on par with what was predicted and there little to no underpolling for Labor which can be expected from unpopular governing parties. Labor held on to its safest seats in South Sydney (and did spectacularly badly in North Sydney, often finishing third behind the Greenies while the Libs won huge 2PP majorities) and a few other assorted safe seats in the Central Coast and Illawarra region. Still, some strongholds which should never have fallen such as Smithfield ended up falling. The Greens underperformed – again – and ended up winning no seats and polling only slightly better than last time.

This historic landslide defeat of the NSW ALP means that they really have work to do and must rebuild if not regenerate the party. However, O’Farrell must also understand that a lot of this huge victory for him comes from protest anti-government voting and perhaps not a vote for his party’s platform, and as such he must deliver. Though he’s undoubtedly in for a long honeymoon as a factionalized backroom deals party such as the ALP tries to regenerate itself – which is something they should have done ages ago.

In the upper house, the Legislative Council, it seems like the Coalition will get 19 seats (+4), Labor 14 (-5), the Greens 5 (+1), the CDP 2 (+1) and the Shooters and Fishers 2 (nc). Family First has lost its seat in the LC.

Canada: An election will be held in Canada on May 2 after the Harper government fell on an opposition motion of no confidence finding it in contempt of Parliament, unprecedented in Canadian history. As a sort of preview post, I intend to answer various questions regarding Canadian politics, political history, parties, electoral geography and current political events. As such, if you have any questions concerning these topics, please post them as comments on this blog, email them to me or tweet them @welections.

Australia 2010: Final(ish) Results

Australia voted on August 21, but the nature of the Australian electoral system and the closeness of this particular election means that the election is still anything from over. In the last post on Australia, over a week ago, I looked at the provisional results and tried to explain the basic results and analyse what happened even if the results were still anything but clear. You can read it here. While a majority of seats have yet to be formally declared and a splattering of votes remain uncounted, the seat total finally appears to be finalized and extremely likely to stick.

House of Representatives

First Preference Count

Coalition1 43.64% (+1.55%) winning 73 seats (+8)
Labor 37.98% (-5.41%) winning 72 seats (-11)
The Greens 11.74% (+3.95%) winning 1 seat (+1)
Family First 2.25% (+0.26%) winning 0 seats (nc)
Independents 2.53% (+0.31%) winning 4 seats (+1)
Others 1.86% winning 0 seats (nc)


Coalition 50.01% (+2.71%) winning 73 seats (+8)3
Labor 49.99% (-2.72%) winning 72 seats (-11)

1 Includes the individual FPVs of the Liberal, Liberal National, National, WA National and Country Liberal Parties
2 Currently includes only the 142 divisions which had a classic Coalition vs. ALP result; thus excluding 8 divisions
3 Includes Tony Crook, a WA National, who will be a crossbencher

A few remarks are important about these results, most notable of which are the three superscript numbers. These results, which are taken from the AEC, are still not entirely final and the finer decimals will still move a bit. The results, however, do remain quite misleading. I have personally summed the results for the Coalition as a whole (the actual breakdown by party being Liberal 30.4%, LNP 9.2%, Nats 3.7%, CLP 0.3%), but these includes votes, all 42,751 of them, for the WA Nationals, who won one seat (O’Connor) but who are not allied closely with the Liberals like the national Nats are. Furthermore, while Tony Crook, the new WA National member for O’Connor is included by the ABC and myself in the coalition’s total seat count, it might be more accurate to count him as a crossbencher along with the four independents and Adam Bandt. This would in turn reduce the Coalition to 72 seats, tied with Labor, and increase the overall crossbench to six. Lastly, while the Coalition has a 2,698 vote lead over Labor in the 2PP results, this all-important count excludes eight seats where the two-candidate preferred result was not “classic” (meaning that one or more minor party or an independent was in the final count). These seats, thus excluded from the count (which is the 2PP count for 142/150 divisions), are Batman, Denison, Grayndler, Kennedy, Lyne, Melbourne, New England and O’Connor. Batman and Grayndler are also some of the Coalition’s worst areas in the country, and neither Melbourne nor Denison are particularly favourable to the Coalition either. Antony Green, Australia’s election god, has called the AEC’s current 2PP results useless and indicates that an accurate 2PP result would have Labor higher, and possibly leading. While these eight seats will one day be counted on the final 2PP count, as of now they are not included until a ‘scrutiny for information’ is done after vote counting is totally done. The AEC says than in a scrutiny for information each of the formal ballot papers is allocated to either the ALP or Coalition candidate depending on which candidate got the highest preference on the ballot paper. It would therefore be intellectually dishonest for the Coalition to claim a victory on the basis of 2PP results, but sadly intellectual honesty isn’t a prized value in contemporary politics.

A week ago, I had classified seven seats as being ‘in doubt’, which was a generous definition, or at least one quite a bit larger than the ABC’s definition. Since then, only one seat has changed hands, that seat being Denison where Labor’s narrow 2PP lead over the independent Andrew Wilkie proved to be short-lived. With almost all votes counted there, Wilkie has been elected with 51.2% of the 2PP vote. In Boothby, the Liberals held on with 50.8%, they gained Brisbane with 51.1%, held Dunkley with 51% and gained Hasluck 50.6%. Labor’s hold in Corangamite is narrow, but with 50.41% on 2PP, it seems to have held on. Likewise in Lindsay, where it has 51.18% of the 2PP votes, a “comfortable” hold. All in all, no seat is in doubt at this point, meaning that most postal ballots and those kind of pre-poll and special votes have been counted.

Now that counting is pretty much done, a list of gains and a look at the swings becomes more useful.

Labor has gained two seats, but lost thirteen seats (including eleven to the Coalition). Here is a list of gains, excluding notional gains or holds:

Solomon (CLP gain from ALP): Darwin and Palmerston, held by the CLP until 2007.
Melbourne (Green gain from ALP): Inner Melbourne. The Green Adam Bandt won a traditionally Labor seat by a wide margin, helped by demographic changes and the retirement of the ALP’s sitting member.
Denison (Ind gain from ALP): Hobart and suburbs. The left-wing independent Andrew Wilkie won one of Labor’s safest Tasmanian seats on Green and Liberal preferences.
Bennelong (Lib gain from ALP): North Shore Sydney suburbs. A key seat gained by Labor’s Maxime McKew over then-PM John Howard in the memorable 2007 election, McKew lost to former tennis player John Alexander.
Hasluck (Lib gain from ALP): Metropolitan suburban Perth. The Liberals’ Ken Wyatt becomes Australia’s first aboriginal member of the House.
Macquarie (Lib gain from ALP): NSW’s Blue Mountains and the far exurbs of Sydney. Gained by Labor in 1993 (lost in 1996) and gained again in 2007 (and lost again in 2010).
Bonner (Lib/LNP gain from ALP): Brisbane’s inner eastern suburbs. Former inaugural Liberal MP Ross Vasta has gained back his old seat, lost in 2007.
Brisbane (Lib/LNP gain from ALP): Inner Brisbane and inner Brisbane suburbs. Boundary changes have played a large role in Labor’s loss in this seat represented by a Labor member since 1980.
Dawson (Nat/LNP gain from ALP): Coastal central Queensland seat. The National Party’s shock defeat in 2007 after a 13.2% swing to Labor has been erased, with the LNP’s George Christensen winning the seat rather easily.
Flynn (Nat/LNP gain from ALP): Inland central Queensland seat with an important mining industry. Created in 2007, the seat’s inaugural Labor member has been defeated.
Forde (Nat/LNP gain from ALP): Outer southern Brisbane. Another Queensland seat gained by the ALP over the Liberals in 2007 with a massive swing (14.4%), and another loss for Labor.
Leichardt (Lib/LNP gain from ALP): Cairns and Cape York peninsula in northern Queensland. A pro-incumbent seat gained by Labor after the Liberal member’s retirement, Labor incumbent Jim Turnour easily fell on a large 8.6% swing to the right.
Longman (Lib/LNP gain from ALP): Caboolture and southern Sunshine Coast. Labor’s Jon Sullivan could unseat a high-profile cabinet minister (Mal Brough) in 2007, but he could not hold on against the 20-year old Liberal Wyatt Roy, who becomes the youngest member ever elected.
La Trobe (ALP gain from Lib): Melbourne’s outer eastern suburbs. Labor ended twenty years of Liberal domination with a very narrow win over sitting Liberal MP Jason Wood.
McEwen (ALP gain from Lib): Central Victoria. With a swing to Labor in the state and a retiring incumbent, Liberals had little hope of holding on to their narrow 27-vote majority in the most marginal seat in the country as of the 2007 election.

Psephos has a preliminary list of two-party swings in each division here. The general patterns were noted in the last post, with the biggest anti-Labor swings being recorded in NSW, Queensland and the Northern Territory. Queensland, of course, has a lot to do with an inflated vote for Labor in 2007 when native boy Kevin Rudd led the party, and the state government’s unpopularity has not helped matters for Labor. While NSW’s swings was not uniform throughout the state, with some huge swings against Labor in Sydney but smaller swings against it in rural or coastal NSW, the basic reason for NSW’s swing is the unpopularity of the state government. On the other hand, Labor suffered only a 0.01% swing in Julia Gillard’s home state of Victoria (with large swings to Labor in Melbourne and especially in Gillard’s seat of Lalor) and gained ground in South Australia (where Gillard has roots) and Tasmania. In South Australia, it is apparently Labor’s best result since 1972 while the Coalition’s result in Tasmania is one of its worst results ever (if not the worst result ever). Interestingly, both South Australia and Tasmania recently re-elected state Labor governments and Victoria is likely do so come October. The 1.92% swing against Labor in Western Australia is surprisingly low, given the popularity of the Liberal state government and the mining tax’s effect, but the question mark with the Nationals’ number and all that has probably fudged stuff there a bit.

The swings within Sydney were looked at in the last post, and the general results remain the same though numbers have changed. Some of Labor’ safest seats in Sydney, as well as some of the Coalition’s safest seats in Sydney, saw large swings against Labor. The largest swing in the country, Fowler’s 13.2% swing to the Coalition can perhaps be explained by the factional wrangling in this redrawn seat which saw a transfer of members to accommodate high-profile Left member Laurie Ferguson left homeless after her old division was abolished. Fowler being dominated by the ALP Right, it seems like the party’s bigwigs moved Werriwa’s Right MP Chris Hayes to Fowler to give Ferguson the seat of Werriwa. The second highest swing (11.3%) came in former Liberal leader Malcolm Turnbull’s seat of Wentworth. Here as in other posh urban divisions, Labor bled a lot of votes to the Greenies, likely the result of a 2007 posh social liberal urbanite ALP vote moving to the Greens with frustration by these posh small-l liberals over Labor’s backtrack on climate change policy and the like. In Wentworth in particular, Turnbull’s moderate stance on the ETS while he was leader might have helped him win the preferences of Greenies, the Greenies nearly overtaking Labor here. Canning (WA)’s swing to Labor seems to explainable by a top-notch ALP candidate (who still didn’t win). The bottom line in the swings is that while patterns are to be seen, some surprise and in other cases the expected patterns aren’t there. The question mark over swings in this election fits in well with the general question mark about this election as a whole.

On a side note for those interested in Australia’s country party, the Nationals have overall managed 13 seats, 6 of which are officially counted as LNP seats and one of which is held by crossbencher Tony Crook. This represents, overall, a gain of two seats for the party. It could perhaps put the lid, for some time, on talks about further state-level mergers between Liberals and Nationals, though the National’s performance in Victoria come the October elections in that state will perhaps be of more interest in the world of rural politics in Australia.

As expected, the Greens have signed a confidence-and-supply deal with Labor and Denison’s independent centre-left MP Andrew Wilkie has also gone with Labor. Though Tony Crook made his intentions unclear, declaring that he wanted more money for his state (the WA Nationals have a rather fruitful policy of ‘royalties for regional Australia’) and that he could support Labor if they scrapped the mining tax, he will support Abbott, though it seems more as an independent vote for him than a whipped party vote. This gives Labor’s Julia Gillard the support of 74 votes against 73 votes for Abbott. To put it in an overly dramatic way, three men will decide the fate of a G20 economy.

The three kingmakers

As previously mentioned, these three rather experienced and in some cases long-time members were all members, at some point in time (albeit sometimes in past decades) of the Nationals. They all represent seats classified as rural and they have often been seen as a kind of bloc. While they talked as a bloc, they will not vote as a bloc. Their decision is due to fall on Tuesday afternoon Australian time. All three have secured some parliamentary reform which includes an independent speaker, time limits on question period and an “acknowledgment of country” at the start of every parliamentary sitting day. If all three back Abbott, he has the 76 seats he need. Vice-versa, if they back Gillard, she has 77, one more than an absolute majority of 76 seats. While a 75-75 deadlock is possibility, it is a remote one at best given that the independents have indicated that they will work to avoid such a result. Rob Oakeshott has said that in such a case, one of the three would need to reconsider their decision in order to break the deadlock in such a scenario. All three seem to agree that stable government is a major point in their decision process, which could give Labor-Greens an edge given their Senate advantage. That being said, rumours indicate that the three seem more likely to back the Coalition and polls in their respective divisions show that local voters would prefer they back the Coalition (which isn’t surprising given their seats). Polls also show that Australians would prefer that the independents back Labor, though voting intentions for a new election give the Coalition an advantage.


incomplete provisional results – subject to change

Coalition winning 17 seats (-4) for a total of 33 seats (-4)
Labor winning 15 seats (-1) for a total of 31 seats (-1)
The Greens winning 6 seats (+4) for a total of 9 seats (+4)
Family First winning 1 seat (nc) for a total of 1 seat (nc)
Democratic Labor Party winning 1 seat (+1) for a total of 1 seat (+1)
No Pokies – Nick Xenophon winning 0 seats for a total of 1 seat (nc)

NSW: Coalition 39.18% (3), ALP 36.69% (2), GRN 10.42% (1), Shooters 2.35%, LDP 2.26%, CDP 1.95%, Sex 1.76%
Victoria: ALP 38.07% (2), Coalition 34.42% (2), GRN 14.53% (1), FFP 2.63%, DLP 2.3% (1), Sex 2.23%, LDP 1.8%, Shooters 1.36%
QLD: LNP 41.57% (3), ALP 29.35% (2), GRN 12.67% (1), FFP 3.45%, Sex 2.59%, LDP 2.23%, Fishing and Lifestyle 2%, Shooters 1.74%
WA: Liberal 43.19% (3), ALP 29.73% (2), GRN 13.86% (1), Nationals 3.41%, Sex 2.23%, CDP 1.81%, LDP 1.16%, FFP 1.15%
SA: ALP 39.1% (2), Liberal 36.53% (2), GRN 13.30% (1), FFP 4.14% (1), Sex 1.67%, Shooters 1.11%
Tasmania: ALP 41.47% (3), Liberal 33.1% (2), GRN 20.37% (1), Shooters 2.02%, FFP 1.23%
ACT: ALP 41.52% (1), Liberal 33.92% (1), GRN 22.83%, DEM 1.73%
NT: CLP 40.88% (1), ALP 34.6% (1), GRN 13.63%, Sex 5.14%, Shooters 4.82%

Again, repeating past analysis made last week is a waste of time, so more analysis on the Senate results and what they mean is found in last week’s post. The notable change is that Family First, while losing their Victorian seat, might have gained one off the Liberals in South Australia in the person of millionaire and the party’s federal chairman Bob Day who is also an ex-Liberal. Needless to say, it’s hard to see him being a swing vote. The DLP seems to be on track to winning the final seat in Victoria off of Family Firster incumbent Steve Fielding, which is somewhat good for Labor given that the DLP is more likely to side with them (at least on economic issues) than the FFP is. Of course, in the realm of political history nerdiness, the return of (re-grouped) groupers to Parliament is hilarious.

The good results of various rural protest parties such as Shooters and, in the Queensland, some Lifestyle outfit, is notable, likely an effect of the propensity of voters to vote for protest parties where they feel it doesn’t matter much. Shooters won over 6% in New England, and won over 4% in large swathes of rural NSW, Queensland and the Northern Territory. Fishing and Lifestyle won over 6% in Kennedy and Leichardt. There seems to be no major notable pattern in the votes for the Sex Party, though it polled well in the Northern Territory.

This election is almost over, but the big point of any election – who forms government – has yet to be decided. It’s anybody’s call (well, technically, it’s the call of three men) as to whether Abbott or Gillard is in the top job come Wednesday or Thursday this week.

Australia 2010: Provisional Results

Full results of the 2010 federal election in Australia will likely take at very least a week to get, but a bit more than 24 hours after election day, the basic preliminary results are out. The basic patterns are known and a general picture of what happened can be painted. Here are the results – excluding postal votes and certain votes not yet counted. These results are not final.

House of Representatives

First Preference Count

Coalition 43.5% (+1.41%) winning 73 seats (+8)
Labor 38.51% (-4.87%) winning 73 seats (-10)
The Greens 11.42% (+3.63%) winning 1 seat (nc)
Family First 2.20% (+0.21%) winning 0 seats (nc)
Independents 2.57% (+0.35%) winning 3 seats (nc)
Others 1.8% winning 0 seats (nc)


Labor 50.67% (-2.03%) winning 73 seats (-10)
Coalition 49.33% (+2.03%) winning 73 seats (+8)

The above map shows the 2PP results as they currently stand in all divisions. Of course, these results may change, but it seems that the basic 2PP counts have been firmly established.

The pollsters were right, but nobody really gave much credence to the thought that no party would emerge with a majority. After all, such a thing hadn’t happened since the 1940 election. Unlike in the Queensland election in 2009 or even the South Australian election earlier in 2010, there was no late swing to the incumbent government, and instead there was a small (and insufficient) swing to the Coalition. As a result, the situation which has emerged is as confusing as ever. While the 2PP vote favours Labors – with roughly 50.5% – the seat count, as of now, favours the Coalition, albeit by only one seat. This result allows both Labor and the Coalition to play the card that they’re the first party and thus deserve an early start to the race for coalition allies. Furthermore, the all-important seat count between Labor and the Coalition can still change, and, as often happens in Australia, likely will. Here are the seven seats which I classify as ‘in doubt’, :

Boothby, SA (Liberal seat, 50.44% 2PP): Old, wealthy traditionally blue-ribbon seat in Adelaide. There has been a 2.37% swing to the ALP on the 2PP count since 2007. The Liberals should hold this seat narrowly.
Brisbane, QLD (ALP seat, 50.62% 2PP): Gentrifying, rather wealthy and professional inner-city seat covering Brisbane and some suburbs. Traditionally Labor, it has become marginal in recent years, despite Liberal loses in these type of seats since 1996. The LNP should gain this seat, based on the 5.28% swing to it since 2007. Labor would need a massive split in its favour in the postal votes to hold this seat, meaning that it could probably drop off this list.
Corangamite, VIC (ALP seat, 50.76% 2PP): A traditionally Liberal seat in south-west Victoria gained by Labor in 2007 (Labor’s first win since 1929), this seat was equally as marginal in 2007 and the swing against Labor was only 0.09%. Labor should hold this seat, though the Liberals have a fighting chance.
Denison, TAS (ALP seat, 50.64% 2PP): One of Labor’s safest seats in Tasmania in recent times, Denison covers central Hobart. Labor, despite a retiring member, was not supposed to have much trouble, but an independent, Andrew Wilkie, a former intelligence officer who resigned over the Iraq war and ran as a Green against Howard in Bennelong in 2004, could have won the seat easily on 2PP thanks to Liberal and Green preferences favouring him over the ALP. Yet, additional votes, which still confirm a Ind vs. ALP 2PP count, now have Labor back ahead of Wilkie on preferences, with 50.6% for the ALP on the latest 2PP count.
Dunkley, VIC (Liberal seat, 50.43% 2PP): A usually Liberal-leaning seat, albeit narrowly, since 1996, Dunkley is located in southern Melbourne, it seems like the Liberals have a tough fight to retain this seat after a 3.6% swing to the ALP which gives the Liberals only 50.4% on the latest 2PP count. The Liberals should retain this seat, but it will be close.
Hasluck, WA (ALP seat, 50.28% 2PP): Old marginal seat in Perth’s growing eastern suburbs, this seat is relatively middle-class but not a mortgage belt-type seat. Labor gained this seat from the Liberals in 2004, who had gained it from Labor that same year. Though Ken Wyatt (Lib) leads in his bid to be the first Aboriginal member of Parliament in Australia, postal votes could favour the ALP here, which means that a Liberal win is not a certainty.
Lindsay, NSW (ALP seat, 50.72% 2PP): A bellwether since its creation in 1984, Lindsay is the archetypal ‘Howard battlers’ and mortgage belt seat, an area of working-class roots but with high incomes and influenced by financial issues. It was a Liberal gain in 1996, but an internal war following the Liberal MP’s retirement in 2007 led to an unusually easy ALP gain in 2007 with 56.8% on the 2PP. The large 5.6% swing, though in line with large anti-ALP swings in Sydney, is also a correction of a ‘freak’ result in 2007. This seat seems to be going for Labor, so it could drop off this list.

    This is the first time since 1940 that neither the traditional left or the traditional right have a majority of seats. Given Australia’s voting system – AV is not proportional representation – and the resulting two-party system, it is rather unusual that such a situation happens and when it happens, like in 1940, it is caused by a flurry of independents or minor parties (in 1940, this was Lang’s NSW Labor outfit, in 2010, it’s the Greenies). However, this result reflects something quite sad about the state of politics in Australia. In the past, voters went to the polls and had a reason to vote in favour of somebody or vote against somebody: be it bad economic times, unpopular policy, a desire for change or a bad opposition being on offer. Julia Gillard led a poor campaign and didn’t provide a good reason of why to vote to return the government. Tony Abbott led a good campaign (or ran the least-worst campaign), but partly his ideology (quite right-wing) prevented ambivalent voters from swinging massively from the ALP to the Coalition unlike in 1996. The Coalition’s gain in primary votes is quite thin, which indicates that there was no massive direct swing from the ALP to the Coalition, again unlike 1996. Partly because of the nature of discontent with Labor’s record – a lot of more left-wing voters haven’t liked Labor’s shying away from tough climate change action or, to use Kevin Rudd’s words, lurk to the right on asylum seekers and the mining tax; and the fact that Abbott isn’t a man who can convince middle-of-the-road urban centrist liberal types from shifting their votes to him, the Greens did very well. They seem to have picked up two-thirds of Labor’s 2007 vote and they have won their best result ever (they are slightly lower than the Democrats’ 1990 record of 12.6%).

    The swings in this election have proved spotty, unusual and downright weird. Labor gained ground in three states, and lost ground in all others. The biggest swing against the ALP was in Queensland, where it suffered a 5.03% swing to the LNP in the 2PP reducing Labor’s 2PP in the state to 45.4%. Part of it is explainable by the unpopularity of the ALP state government, but Kevin Rudd, native son, played a huge role in helping Labor do so well in his home state in 2007. Now that he’s gone, and not extremely keen on helping the party which ousted him less than two months ago, it is obvious that conservative Queensland would swing to the right. A 4% swing to the Coalition in NSW is also explainable by the fact that the state government, led by Labor, is the most unpopular government in the country. Victoria swang 0.85% in Gillard’s way, the result of Gillard’s higher appeal in her home state – her biography is also responsible for a 1.13% swing to Labor in South Australia, a place where Gillard also has roots. The biggest swing to Labor, however, some inexplicably, came in Tasmania, where there was a 4.7% swing against the Coalition and resulted in Labor solidifying their narrow 2007 wins in Bass and Braddon. Western Australia’s small 1.71% swing away from Labor is surprisingly small, given the rumours that the mining tax would hurt Labor a lot in a state with an important mining industry which is raking up profits. That being said, the 6% swing against Labor in Durack (the new outback seat with some mines) does lend support to the idea that the mining tax did hurt Labor. In addition, Labor lost roughly 9% of first preference votes compared to 2007 in O’Connor, which includes some mining areas as well, though the unusual nature of the race muddies stuff up a bit. In the Northern Territory, there was a 4.83% swing to the Coalition (represented in the NT by the Country Liberals, CLP), which resulted in the ALP losing their narrow 2007 gain in Solomon, the Darwin-centered and military-driven seat.

    What is of interest, and of even more interest given who the kingmakers in the hung parliament are, are the swings within the states. According to the AEC’s classifications, there is a uniform pattern in the swings. Swings against Labor were highest in inner metropolitan areas (situated in capital cities and consisting of well-established built-up suburbs). In NSW, these areas saw a 6.6% swing against the ALP. As a result, certain ‘safe seats’ such as Banks – the 2PP count went from 60/39 for Labor to 51/49 for Labor – were unusually close. The swings in northern Sydney, the blue-ribbon posh areas of the city, were high – destroying Labor’s much talked about gains in seats such as Bennelong (John Howard’s seat, where he was defeated in 2007, turned back to the Liberals), North Sydney (a 8.6% swing in what was one the Liberal Party’s best areas), Warringah and Wentworth. That being said, aside from higher-than-average swings in North Sydney and Wentworth, the swing to the Coalition in Warringah, Bennelong, Bradfield, Mackellar were below the inner met average, indicating that Liberal loses in these blue-ribbon areas were not a fluke. Swings, however, were rather phenomenal in south and western Sydney, where the ‘average Joe’ usually lives. These areas, which have gotten wealthy in the past but retain some working-class roots and have a few immigrants, saw some big swings to the Coalition. Bank, as mentioned before, but also Fowler (13.2%), Barton (7.9%) and Werriwa (7.9%). In these inner – and outer – metro areas, Labor lost lots of support to the Greens as well – who did well in posh areas such as Wentworth or Bradfield. The swing against Labor in inner-metro areas was 3.7% nationally (against a 2% swing in all Australia). The issue of asylum seekers might have hurt Labor in these urban areas, especially the ‘average Joe’ area type suburbs. Swings, however, were lower in provincial and rural areas. Even in NSW, they were only 1.5% or so against Labor, which explains why Labor held on in marginals like Robertson (NSW) while they faced a tougher race in Banks. Labor’s support for rural broadband might explain these swings a bit.

    The Nationals haven’t done all that badly overall, their result might stop, for some time, the talk of a Liberal/National merger like in Queensland (where they formed the LNP). While the official seat count is 7 seats for the Nats against 10 in 2007, one must remember that the 2010 results for the Nationals exclude Queensland where the Nationals no longer exist. Counting Queensland, where the Nationals elected 4 of their own (including their leader), the Nationals have 11 seats, a gain of one against 2007. Their most shocking gain came in Western Australia, where Tony Crook knocked off very controversial Liberal MP Wilson Tuckey in O’Connor, which was massively redrawn since 2007. On Labor prefs, Crook beat Tuckey 54-46 on the 2PP count. Tony Crook and the WA Nationals are more independent from the Liberals than the national party is, meaning that within the Coalition’s likely 73 members, one is a major maverick figure who could be won over by Labor – after all, a National-Labor deal is actually not unheard of. That makes matters even more muddy.

    The Greens have performed strongly, as usual, in densely populated CBDs (central business districts) and inner-suburban neighborhoods. They easily gained their top target of Melbourne from the ALP, after winning roughly 46% of the 2PP vote there in 2007. In two of the ALP’s ultra safe seats – the old working-class divisions of Batman (Melbourne) and Grayndler (Sydney), they outpaced the Liberals to face the ALP on second preferences, highlighting the changing nature of these seats. That being said, the ALP still won Batman 58/42 on 2PP, but in ultra-safe Grayndler, the Greens managed roughly 45% on 2PP. In Sydney (the division), the ALP was very lucky the Liberals outpaced the Greens for the 2PP count, allowing Labor to hold the seat by a huge margin, because they could very well have lost the seat to the Greenies if the Greens had gotten on the 2PP count. However, the Greens also did relatively well in the ‘bush’, probably highlighting a new environmental conscience in these areas hit in recent years by droughts and bush fires. Their real success, however, came in the Senate.


    incomplete provisional results – subject to change

    Coalition winning 18 seats (-3) for a total of 34 seats (-3)
    Labor winning 15 seats (-1) for a total of 31 seats (-1)
    The Greens winning 6 seats (+4) for a total of 9 seats (+4)
    Family First winning 0 seats (-1) for a total of 0 seats (-1)
    Democratic Labor Party winning 1 seat (+1) for a total of 1 seat (+1)
    No Pokies – Nick Xenophon winning 0 seats for a total of 1 seat (nc)

    The Coalition lost ground, comparatively, in the Senate because these seats were last up in 2004, where Howard had managed to win a majority for the Coalition in the Senate. It was only obvious that the Liberals would lose seats from their 2004 sowing, how many being the main question. A loss of only three seats is quite good, given how good the 2004 series was for the Coalition. That being said, as in 2007, the balance of power still rests with the Greens, who almost doubled their seats. A look at the results by state are instructive (all parties breaking 1% are included):

    NSW: Coalition 39.14% (3), ALP 37.09% (2), GRN 10.43% (1), Shooters 2.29%, LDP 2.04%, CDP 1.97%, Sex 1.73%
    Victoria: ALP 38.67% (2), Coalition 34.3% (2), GRN 14.36% (1), FFP 2.69%, DLP 2.23% (1), Sex 2.23%, LDP 1.65%, Shooters 1.33%
    QLD: LNP 41.41% (3), ALP 29.77% (2), GRN 12.83% (1), FFP 3.5%, Sex 2.54%, LDP 2.05%, Fishing and Lifestyle 1.95%, Shooters 1.66%
    WA: Liberal 43.84% (3), ALP 29.76% (2), GRN 14.01% (1), Nationals 2.7%, Sex 2.14%, CDP 1.82%, LDP 1.21%, FFP 1.09%
    SA: ALP 39% (2), Liberal 36.89% (3), GRN 13.31% (1), FFP 4.07%, Sex 1.65%, Shooters 1.1%
    Tasmania: ALP 42.13% (3), Liberal 32.73% (2), GRN 20.26% (1), Shooters 1.93%, FFP 1.22%
    ACT: ALP 41.71% (1), Liberal 33.41% (1), GRN 23.22%, DEM 1.66%
    NT: CLP 41.24% (1), ALP 34.59% (1), GRN 13.96%, Shooters 4.93%, Sex 4.46%

    The major highlight of the Senate results was the success of the Greens, taking a Senate seat in each state. Albeit in 2004 they came agonizingly close to taking a seat in Victoria, they were beaten out on preferences by Family First’s Steve Fielding. Now, based on their strong showing nationally and their strength in all main states, it was only normal that they would manage to do so well. In the ACT, they missed out on a seat partly because of the Liberals’ natural ground in the ACT (they’re guaranteed roughly 30% of the vote there) and apparently because preferences from the Democrats didn’t favour them enough. Ironically, the ACT was the party’s strongest showing of all states and their result there is up there with the best ever results for a green party in the world.

    In a massive blast from the past, it seems like the Democratic Labor Party (DLP) is on track to win the last seat in Victoria. This DLP is not legally the same as the old Catholic anti-communist one from the 60s, but it is ancestrally the same and is just as socially conservative and economically left-wing as the old DLP. It has a seat in the Victorian Legislative Council since 2006, and has usually managed to poll 1-2% in Victoria in the past, but nobody cared about it. Now, thanks to one of the freak results that mandatory preferencing in STV produced, similar to the fluke which Steve Fielding’s 2004 win for Family First in Victoria was. It remains to be seen if postal votes can keep the DLP up or if the last seat will go to the ALP or maybe Family First, but it would be very funny and a massive blast from the past if the DLP won a Senator. It would be the first DLPer elected federally since 1974.

    The Future

    And thus, the political future of a G20 country now depends on the decisions of five men. One Green and three Independents who hold the balance of power. Unlike in other countries where a party with a caucus has the balance of power and is easier to deal with because they actually have a program of their own, in Australia the outcome hinges on the decisions of five men who, though they might be good friends and might have some common roots, are different persons who represent different types of electorates.

    On one hand, you have the first Green elected in a general election – Adam Bandt in Melbourne. Helped by the retirement of high-profile Labor incumbent Lindsay Tanner, the Greens seized on their 2007 showing – they had beat the Liberals to come second in the 2PP count – the result of a sociological shift from being a working-class inner-city district to a gentrifying, young professional urbane seat. Bandt polled 36.1% on first prefs, behind Labor but far ahead of the Liberals; and won with Liberal preferences over Labor in the 2PP with 55.7%. Bandt already said that he favours Labor in case of a hung parliament, hardly surprising given that Tony Abbott’s Liberals are continents away from the Greens on policy issues such as the environment or gay rights.

    Andrew Wilkie, mentioned above, if he wins – is counted as a left-wing independent. A former intelligence analyst who split with the government over Iraq in 2003, he was a Green until recently and it’s extremely hard to see him back a Liberal government, both because of his ideological differences with them and the nature of his seat.

    Therefore, the fate of Australia really depends on three entrenched independents from Queensland and NSW. Bob Katter, originally a National, has represented the huge rural seat of Kennedy in Queensland since 1993, and has won re-election since then, even after becoming an independent in 2001. He won 68.7% of the 2PP vote in Kennedy this year. A maverick within the Nats, where he was known as ‘mad Bob’ because of his penchant for being crazy, he is a protectionist and favours a 10% duty on all goods entering Australia. Although he’s a right-winger, he is far from being a guaranteed ally of the Coalition, with whom he’s had his share of problems.

    Tony Windsor, a former state MP, has held the rural NSW electorate of New England since 2001. He hasn’t been a member of the Nationals since 1991, the year where he became a state MP as an independent. He won re-election this year with 71.6% against the Nats on 2PP and over 62% on first prefs. Described as a social progressive and economic conservative, he has even less ties with the Nats than Katter and is also not a guaranteed vote for the right.

    The most recent Independent MP is Rob Oakshott, who has held the rural seat of Lyne (NSW) since a 2008 by-election. A former state MP, he easily defeated the Nats, defending the seat, winning over 60% of 2PP votes. He won 62.4% of the 2PP vote this year. A close friend and ally of Tony Windsor, he’s similar to him politically and the same rule about him not being a guaranteed vote for the right applies.

    Thus, the three main Independents will likely be ‘bought’ by one side or the other with material arguments, such as goodies for their areas and advantages for rural Australia. Labor’s support for rural broadband access – opposed by Abbott – may come into play here, but the Coalition might have an advantage with them on basis of their centre-right ideological leanings as well as the (now outdated) argument that since they have more seats than Labor they deserved to form government. The Coalition’s chances of winning the 3 main indies to their side depends on them winning more seats than Labor. If they don’t, their chances decline dramatically.

    Though minority governments are not common in Australia, they aren’t unheard of and the parliaments of Tasmania and the ACT currently are minority governments, the ACT has been one since 2008 although Tasmania has only had a minority since the March election. In several states, minority administrations backed by independents have not been that unstable, which could mean that a new federal election this year or early next year isn’t as likely as some make it to be. That being said, given the Labor/Green Senate numbers, it is arguable that a Labor government would be most stable because a Liberal government in the House could see a lot of its legislation blocked by a more left-leaning Senate, resulting, perhaps, in an early double dissolution election. A Labor government in the House would certainly have less trouble in the Senate than a Liberal one.

    As results become finalized, new posts will be made with correct information and results, as well as more analysis and maps of the results. For now, this is just a basic overview of the main outlines of the results thus far and a look at what the future holds.

    Election Preview: Australia 2010

    Australia will go to the polls on Saturday August 21 in an early federal election. All 150 seats in the House of Representatives as well as 40 of the Senate’s 76 seats will be up for re-election. This is a traditional half-Senate and full-House election, which come about normally unlike double dissolution elections where the entire Senate is up for re-election, which can happen if the Senate blocks House legislation twice in three months.

    Voting System

    All 150 seats in the House of Representatives are elected in single-member electorates or electoral divisions through preferential voting. Preferential voting, also known as IRV or AV, is fairly unusual in countries using single-member districts, most of which use Westminster-style FPTP voting. In the House, voters must number all candidates on the ballot in order of their preference. If no candidate has a majority of first preference votes, the lowest-placed candidates are eliminated and their votes are distributed based on the second preferences of their voters. This means that in the end, the winner of the seat will have a majority of the votes and is thus the ‘most preferred’ candidate. While preferential voting allows smaller parties to exist and sometimes win seats, the preferential voting system is not intended to be a proportional system and has thus maintained a two-party/coalition system in Australia. Furthermore, mandatory preferential voting can be hassle for voters who don’t know all the candidates standing and can lead to informal (invalid) votes or donkey voting. However, parties often hand out how to vote cards to potential voters outside booths, instructing voters intending to vote for party X on how to number their preferences to ensure either the victory of party X or the victory of the major candidate most preferred by party X. The two-party preferred result, or 2PP, indicates the results where preferences have been distributed to the major sides of politics. Nationally, the numbers are a Labor vs. Coalition matchup, though in some electorates, Independents or Greens can get into the 2PP count.

    Australia’s Senate is an oddity in the Westminster system in that it is far closer to the American Senate than to the Canadian Senate. Australia’s Senate ensures the equal representation of all states (12 seats per state and 2 seats per territory) and, since 1948, also ensures proportional representation of parties within a state. This is done through use of STV, single-transferable vote, which is also used in Ireland and Malta. Parties nominate a slate of candidate (not necessarily six) which form a party list. On the ballot paper, voters have the option of voting above the line or below the line. 95% choose the simpler first option, which consists of placing a ‘1’ in the box next to the party of their choice. When voting below the line, voters must indicate their preference order for all candidates, often numbering up to 50-60, which explains why only 5% of voters vote below the line. The widespread use of above the line voting often leads independents to group themselves and form a slate, though same candidates remain ungrouped, and thus can only receive primary votes from the few below the line voters.

    Senators facing re-election in 2010 are those elected in October 2004 and whose terms expires on June 30, 2011.

    Voting in Australia, of course, is mandatory.

    Political History

    Australia has always had a two-party system of sorts, rarely challenged by outsiders, some of whom were integrated into the two party or two coalition system.

    In 1901, in the first election following Federation, two main blocs opposed each other. On one side, Edmund Barton’s ‘governing’ Protectionists, who advocated high tariffs on imported good, and George Reid’s Free Traders, who, obviously, advocated dismantling the tariff system. The Protectionists, who were the de-facto governing party and whose ranks including high-profile colonial political leaders, won 31 seats to the Free Traders’ 28 seats, meaning that they were dependent on support from 14 Labor MPs, who allied with Barton’s Protectionists in return for legislative concessions. Protectionists found most of their support in Victoria, whose economy was more dependent on mining and farming, while Free Traders largely dominated urban New South Wales with its large trade-dependent economy.

    Legislative concessions granted to Labor in the first government included the 1901 White Australia policy. In the 1850s, the Gold Rush in Victoria had led to an influx of Chinese immigrants, which later led to social tensions when gold became scarcer. The labour movement was also wary of Asian immigration, fearing that Chinese and Japanese immigrants would take jobs away from white workers. In 1901, a White Australia policy enjoyed widespread quasi-unanimous support.

    Stepping down to join the High Court in September 1903, Barton was succeeded by Alfred Deakin, a Protectionist, who led the party into the December 1903 elections in which the Labor Party made significant gains at the expense of the Protectionists. Labor became a thorn in the side of the Protectionists who found themselves unwilling to support Labour’s more radical legislative demands. Unable to pass legislation, Deakin resigned and was followed by Chris Watson, the first Labor PM in the world, who was also tied down by lack of support in the House. The rejection of a compulsory arbitration act in 1904 and Watson’s failure to get a double dissolution let George Reid form a minority government which was largely a caretaker government which waited on the Protectionists and Labor to patch up and re-form government, which they did in July 1905 under the leadership of Deakin.

    Deakin’s second government was largely successful, passing extensive legislation including compulsory arbitration of labour disputes, expanding the High Court to 5, arranging Australian control of Papua, passing the first protective tariff and taking the first steps in the creation of an independent Australian navy. Despite Deakin’s successes, the Protectionists further lost ground in the 1906 elections, losing 10 seats to independents, Labour and the Free Traders – now known as the Anti-Socialists. Deakin was forced from office by Labor’s Andrew Fisher. Fisher’s first government established Canberra to be the new capital and laid the blueprints for the new Australian navy and sought to extend federal power over labour, wages and pensions.

    The rise of Labor and the subsequent disappearance of the middle-ground in Australian politics moved the Protectionists and Free Traders, who shared the same outlook on most realms except tariffs, further to the right. In 1906, the Free Traders became the Anti-Socialist Party, showing the switch in the party’s outlook from defense of liberal values such as trade to conservative values such as opposition to rising socialism. While George Reid was more lukewarm towards the change in the party’s orientation, his successor as party leader in 1908, Joseph Cook, was not, and acquiesced in 1909 to Deakin’s proposal to ‘fuse’ the two parties into the Commonwealth Liberal Party. As a result, Fisher was ousted from the premiership in 1909 by Deakin, who led the new party into the 1910 election.

    1910 saw the first majority government in Australia, and it was formed by Fisher’s Labor who had soundly defeated Deakin’s Liberals, with 42 seats to Deakin’s 36 seats. Fisher’s government, which held a majority in both houses, passed 113 acts, a high point of parliamentary activity and the Labor Party’s legislative action. His government’s reforms included new old-age and disability pensions,  maternity allowance, workers’ compensation, Australia’s first paper currency and founding the Royal Australian Navy among others. However, 1911 and 1913 attempts at nationalisation of monopolies were voted down in referendums and Fisher finally lost the 1913 election to Cook’s Liberals by a mere seat (37 to 38) but Labor retained control of the Senate.

    Cook argued that Senate control was necessary for him to govern and intentionally introduced legislation which the Labor-held Senate in order to force a double dissolution election in September 1914. However, Fisher reminded voters, in the midst of the first shots of World War I, that Labor had supported an independent defense force, something which the Liberals had opposed. As a result, Fisher’s Labor won him a third non-consecutive term.

    Following Australia’s rout in the Dardanelles Operation in 1915, Fisher, finding the war taxing on his health, stepped down ceded his spot to a veteran Labor MP, Billy Hughes. Following massive loses in 1915 and 1916, Hughes became a supporter of conscription, something advocated by the army and conservatives but opposed by Labor’s Catholic and union base. A plebiscite on conscription was voted down in October 1916, but Hughes was unwavering in his support of conscription. The debate over conscription highlighted a split between Australians who were keen British Imperialists and ready to stand by the mother country, and other more nationalist Australians who were not so keen on steadfast allegiance to the old mother country. Labor’s base being made of Irish Catholics, socialists and trade unionists; Hughes found himself in a tough spot and his abrasive personality didn’t help his case. In September 1916, he was expelled from the party and founded the National Labor Party, a name which reflects the nationalist (meaning British Imperialist-nationalist, of course) nature of the party. Hughes concluded a confidence and supply deal with the Liberals to stay in power, but this deal quickly turned into a new party, the Nationalist Party, in 1917. The new party won the confidence of Australian voters who handed Hughes a large victory in the 1917 election, when he won 53 seats to Labor’s paltry 22.

    Big and small farmers, especially wheat farmers, a traditionally conservative electorate, grew dissatisfied with Hughes’ economic policies, which reflected his left-wing past. For example, he retained a high tariff protection and supported price controls on rural produce. Between 1918 and 1920, they participated in the foundation of the Country Party, a party dedicated to the defense of farmers’ interests and the representation of ‘regional Australia’. The emergence of a new force on the right in a FPTP system threatened the conservative control of government, and would allow Labor to win seats on the basis of right-wing vote splitting, as happened in the 1918 Swan by-election. The results in Swan led Hughes’ government to pass an electoral reform establishing Australia’s current preferential voting system which would prevent a Labor win on sole basis of split in the right-wing vote.

    In Versailles in 1919, where Hughes signed the Treaty of Versailles for Australia, he engaged in bickering with Wilson, whom he hated, and made sure Japan’s racial equality proposal (an attack on the White Australia policy) was struck down. An opponent of the League, which he viewed as flawed idealism, he also was a key supporter of demanding tough reparations on Germany and was wary of Japanese expansionism in Germany’s former Pacific colonial holdings.

    Re-elected in 1919, Hughes faced increasing opposition from the Nationalist Party’s old liberal base, who were wary of Hughes’ support for continued government ownership of various companies. Yet, they stuck with him (save for a few dissidents), mostly in the interests of keeping Labor out of power. The Nationalists lost their majority in 1922, where they won 26 seats to Labor’s 29 and the Country Party’s 14, a result which gave Country leader Earle Page the balance of power. Page formed a coalition with the Nationalists, but indicated that they wouldn’t work with Hughes. The conservative faction of the Nationalist Party were all too happy to get rid of Hughes and they forced him out of the job in favour of his Treasurer, Stanley Bruce, who formed a coalition with the Country Party, conceding key posts (5/11) to his junior ally. An aristocratic ‘Tory’, who was also the first to preside over an entirely Australian-born cabinet, Stanley Bruce maintained a conservative policy which was anti-communist, pro-British and a key supporter of the White Australia policy, which he used as a campaign issue in 1925, when his coalition won an even larger majority over a demoralized Labor Party. During Stanley Bruce’s tenure, Australia returned to minding its home affairs, inciting British immigration, exporting its mineral and agricultural products, strengthening and protecting its economy. Stanley Bruce’s majority was reduced in 1928, but he managed to hold on.

    His 1929 demise was brought upon first by a series of strikes, to which he responded by proposing the abolition of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. Billy Hughes and other Nationalist backbenchers got their revenge on Bruce and defeated his government, sending voters to the polls again in 1929 (a House-only election). James Scullin’s Labor Party won 46 seats to the coalition’s 24.

    Scullin took office two days before the Wall Street Crash of 1929, which heavily impacted Australia’s economy, heavily tributary to international markets and British banks. Unemployment soared while profits from exports (notably wool) dwindled. Scullin’s new government and his party was split into three camps over the government response to the Depression. Scullin, guided by orthodox advice, was resigned to supporting orthodox salary and spending cuts (in which he was supported by Joe Lyons). His first Treasurer, Ted Theodore, was a Keynesian and advocated deficit financing to get out of the recession. Further on the left, NSW’s radical Premier, Jack Lang, advocated repudiating his state and the country’s debt towards Britain. Theodore was forced out in 1930 over a scandal, which led Joe Lyons to become acting Treasurer while Scullin spent most of 1930 in London. However, in January 1931, he re-instated Theodore as Treasurer, which led Lyons and his orthodox allies to join up with the Nationalists to form the United Australia Party (UAP) while Lang’s supporters founded a dissident Lang Labor group which finally allied with the UAP to pass a motion of no-confidence in Scullin in November 1931, forcing a snap election.

    A divided Labor Party was swept out of office by Joe Lyon’s UAP, which won 34 seats (+16 Country) to Labor’s mere 14, joined by 4 Langites. Joe Lyon’s new government, formed only by the UAP, continued orthodox policies, and benefited from the gradual recovery which allowed Australia, by 1934, to resume its pre-Depression lifestyle. On the foreign stage, Lyons also supported the League and the British government’s appeasement of Germany though Lyons did build up the army. He was re-elected in 1934 and 1937, though in both those elections the UAP needed to form a coalition with the Country Party, which won its best result (15.6%) in 1937. The gathering war clouds depressed Lyons the pacifist, who was suffering from opposition within his party, coming from the young talented Robert Menzies. Lyons died in April 1939, and was replaced by Robert Menzies, who defeated Billy Hughes for the leadership of the UAP, although the Country Party refused to serve under Menzies until Page resigned the Country Party’s leadership in 1940. Presiding over Australia as a war-time Prime Minister after September 1939, Menzies’ leadership was judged to be uninspiring and voters had memories of the pro-appeasement Menzies who visited Germany in 1938. The UAP very nearly lost the 1940 election to Labor, winning 36 seats to Labor’s 32, and even lost the two-party preferred tally. Menzies’ government, which now included Archie Cameron’s Country Party, governed with the support of two independents). While he was in Britain conferring with Churchill (some say Menzies had his eyes on Churchill’s job in London) in early 1941, Menzies lost party support back home and was forced to resign in August 1941. The UAP, bereft of leadership, allowed the Country Party’s Arthur Fadden to form government, also reliant on the support of two independents, who in October 1941 voted his budget and allowed Labor’s John Curtin to become Prime Minister, with the strong backing of the two independents guaranteeing stability.

    Threatened in its own backyard, Curtin shifted the country’s war policy towards the Pacific, where Japan’s unstoppable advances threatened Australia itself. In December 1941, Curtin pleaded to the United States for support in the Pacific, signaling a shift in Australian foreign policy from a close alliance with London to a close alliance with Washington. While Roosevelt was not fond of Curtin’s appeal, which he judged desperate, Curtin found a key ally in General MacArthur, who would be Curtin’s voice in Washington.

    Even after the fall of Singapore in 1942 and the rising fear of a Japanese attack on Australia, Curtin was able to rally his country behind the war effort with success. It won him and his party a landslide in the 1943 election, in which the UAP was so bereft of leadership (its nominal leader was Billy Hughes) that the Country Party’s Arthur Fadden led the Coalition. The Coalition came out with only 19 seats and 42% of the 2PP, against 49 seats and 58% of the 2PP for Labor. Yet, a 1944 attempt by Curtin to give the government temporary control over resources and the economy was struck down in a referendum that same year.

    Curtin died in office in July 1945 and was succeded by Ben Chifley, his Treasurer, who defeated Curtin’s deputy, Frank Forde. With the strain of the war effort over, Chifley’s government focused on the Labor Party’s democratic socialist ideals at home. This included a system of subsidised medicine for Australians, the foundation of Qantas and TAA, a social security scheme for the unemployed, the creation of Australian citizenship and finally laying the groundwork for an ambitious hydroelectric station in the Snowy Mountains. In 1948, the preferential block voting in the Senate was replaced by STV, an attempt to make the Senate more representative – block voting had allowed massive landslides for one party, most recently for the ALP in 1943. Chifley’s Labor Party won the 1946 elections easily, with 43 seats to the Coalition’s 26. The Coalition was now led by Robert Menzies, who had returned following Billy Hughes’ 1943 creaming. He found a moribond UAP whose branches lacked activity. Menzies was convinced that conservative opposition to the ALP needed to be re-organized, which he did in 1945 with the Liberal Party. Yet, Menzies still lost the 1946 election and criticism of his leadership abounded within the new party.

    However, rising anti-communism in the Cold War context and domestic events provided for a conservative comeback. In 1947, Chifley announced a plan to nationalize the banks, something which was violently opposed by the press and the middle-class (the plan was struck down as unconstitutional). In 1949, a long strike in the coal industry allowed Menzies to play on an image that the ALP was soft on communism (the Communist Party of Australia never was a major party at any time). That same year, the Coalition swept Chifley out of office, with Menzies’ Coalition winning 74 seats to Labor’s 47. However, Labor retained the Senate.

    Labor control of the Senate made life miserable for Menzies’ first government and his government attempted throughout 1951 to win a double-dissolution election. Menzies proposed a bill banning the Communist Party, hoping that Labor would reject it. But they accepted it. It was only after Labor rejected a banking bill that Menzies got a double dissolution. In a tight election, the Coalition won 69 seats to Labor’s 52, losing 5 seats overall, but did gain control of the Senate. Economic conditions deteriorated, which gave the ALP, and its new leader, H.V. Evatt, a boost ahead of the 1954 ballot. However, Menzies announced that a Soviet spy had defected and revealed the existence of a large spy ring in Australia. The Liberals jumped on this chance to play with Cold War scare and ‘won’ the 1954 election although the ALP actually won the 2PP. Evatt’s jumbled response to the spy ring case led to a 1955 split in the ALP, in which the party’s largely Catholic (and thus stringently anti-communist) Victorian base walked out following a letter in which Evatt blamed anti-communist Catholic Industrial Groups within trade unions for the party’s electoral defeat the previous year. Influenced by Catholic social teaching, the anti-communist ALP which later became the Democratic Labor Party (DLP), was a largely sectarian Catholic party supported by Irish Catholics and the Archbishop of Melbourne. Though the DLP never performed exceptionally well in elections, their preferences, which flowed to the Liberals, helped Menzies’ Coalition to win elections.

    By this time, Australia’s post-war economy was booming. Australian agricultural exports were being sold at high price, immigration (white, of course) was booming, and income, fueled by the agricultural exports, were on the rise. Menzies’ Liberals, which won by wide margins in 1955 and 1958, well represented a prudent, conformist Australia, a stronghold of the white race in the Pacific, attached to material values and high incomes. On the foreign stage, Menzies was a close ally of the United States: the ANZUS pact was signed in 1951, Australia participated in the Korean and Vietnam conflicts. At the same time, Menzies was also a keen monarchist and was proud of Australia’s British heritage.

    Though Menzies’ majority declined to a mere 2 seats in 1961 following an ill-advised squeeze on credit, the Menzies years were a high-point for the Liberals and their junior ally, the Country Party, which dominated Queensland politics between 1957 and 1989 (notably under Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen). Menzies retired in 1966, which, for some, marks the beginning of the Liberal downfall (it certainly does mark the beginning of the Country Party’s decline). The Country Party started losing support, a trend which came as a result of declining influence in rural Australia but also the modernization and urbanization of Australia which reduced the weight of rural Australia. In 1975, they became the National Party, which was a failed move to appeal to more urban voters.

    He was succeeded by Harold Holt, his Treasurer. Although a reformist who relaxed the White Australia policy during his tenure as Menzies’ Immigration Minister, Holt’s main claim to fame in his short stay in office is his unwavering support of Australia’s commitment to the Vietnam War. He famously pledged to go “all the way with LBJ”. As in the US, the popularity of Australia’s role in Vietnam quickly declined and gave Holt a bad name in history books, although in 1966, the Liberals won an increased majority – 82 to 41 over the ALP.

    In December 1967, Holt drowned, or disappeared, and was presumed dead two days later. The Liberal leadership was supposed to go to Holt’s Treasurer, William McMahon, but Country leader McEwen vetoed the nomination. John Gorton was elected Liberal leader and started out as relatively popular a Prime Minister, cultivating a ‘down-to-earth’ style which contrasted with Menzies’ aloofness. Yet, he proved to be a poor public speaker and media performer, especially against Labor’s new leader, Gough Whitlam. Whitlam’s party made large gains in 1969, reducing Gorton’s majority to only seven and even won a majority of the 2PP vote. The Whitlam-led ALP had reformed itself from an old factionalized machine to a modern, progressive party which was an electable alternative. Labor’s long-standing support of a White Australia policy was dropped and Labor appealed more to Catholic voters as well as a new, young generation of Australians unhappy with the conservative conformism of the Menzies years.

    The close call in 1969 weakened Gorton’s control over his party, and opposition from Defense Minister Malcolm Fraser was particularly harsh. In 1971, he called a leadership ballot which ended up tied. Considering this support insufficient, Gorton stepped down and William McMahon won the party’s leadership. McEwen’s 1971 retirement and his replacement by a new leader who didn’t continue the Country Party’s veto of McMahon. He proved to be a poor leader, hurt by the unpopularity of conscription and Vietnam as well as rising inflation. He was outperformed by Whitlam, whose party was proposing popular policies such as universal health care.

    In the 1972 election, Whitlam’s ALP defeated the Coalition, and finally won more seats than the Coalition: 67 against 58. However, the Senate, which had been elected in 1970 for a term lasting till 1974, remained in the opposition’s hands. Whitlam’s government quickly set out to work, notably ending conscription, getting all remaining troops out of Vietnam, voting in favour of sanctions on Rhodesia and South Africa, abolishing tertiary university fees, and abolished the death penalty for federal crimes. The government also finally got rid of the White Australia policy and started encouraging immigration from Asia. Whitlam had a hard time with the Liberal-dominated Senate, where the opposition sought make use of its power to block legislation. Whitlam also fought with state premiers, especially the Coalition-led governments of Queensland, NSW and Victoria as he attempted to reduce state power (a 1973 referendum transferring control of wages to the feds was voted down). Whitlam sought, desperately, to wrestle control of the Senate (a half-Senate election was due in 1974) from the opposition but his attempt at getting six seats up for election in Queensland instead of the usual five with the upcoming resignation of a DLP Senator was destroyed by Sir Joh. Instead, playing on the Senate’s rejection of his bills twice in a three-month period, he got a double-dissolution election. Whitlam’s House majority was reduced to five, while the Senate was deadlocked 29-29 with two crossbenchers holding balance of power. It would take Australia’s first and only joint sitting of Parliament for Whitlam’s universal health care bill, along with other bills including extending representation to the territories, to pass.

    The 1973 oil crisis and the high cost of new social programs led to increased inflation and a boost in Australia’s trade deficit in 1974. Yet, the 1974 budget did not include spending cuts. Over 1974 and 1975, the crisis deepened and the ALP sank deeper into the water. Meanwhile, the opposition, now led by Malcolm Fraser, was determined to block supply while Whitlam did not want to call new elections (a 1975 by-election in Bass had been extremely bad for the party). Two principles of British parliamentarianism came to clash. On one hand, the idea that a government that did not have supply could not govern and the other idea that a government that had confidence of the House could continue to govern. Whitlam did not have supply, but he still had confidence from the lower house. Finally, in November 1975, Governor General Sir John Kerr dismissed Whitlam on basis that he lacked supply, and had him replaced by Malcolm Fraser. An election was called the same day, and in December, Fraser’s Coalition won a landslide win, taking 91 seats to the ALP’s 36. This came despite large protests opposing Kerr’s dismissal of Whitlam by Labor supporters earlier in November. Yet, a Coalition campaign focused on economic issues, notably scandals in Whitlam’s economic management, contributed to the large victory, as did the support of the press, led in part by Australian press magnate Rupert Murdoch.

    Fraser’s government dismantled some of Labor’s programs and implemented some tough budget cuts, which reined in inflation, but his budget was relatively moderate, much to the chagrin of neoliberals in his party, notably his Thatcherite treasurer, John Howard. Fraser also represented a moderate wing of the Liberal Party in foreign policy, opposing apartheid in South Africa and playing a vital role in negotiations which led to black-majority rule in Rhodesia and Robert Mugabe’s 1980 election. He also surprised a few with his liberal immigration policy and his support for multiculturalism, a break from the Liberal Party’s conservative ‘British Imperialist’ type policy in regards to immigration. Ironically, despite his contemporary reputation as a moderate, the opposition of certain centrist Liberals, notably Don Chipp, led to the creation of the Australian Democrats in 1977. The Democrats were a centrist, socially liberal and environmentalist party which opposed neoliberal economics. The Democrats managed 11% in the 1977 Senate election. Though Fraser kept a strong majority in 1978, in 1980, the Coalition saw its majority sharply reduced, likely the result of high unemployment and tough budgets. His leadership was becoming weaker and he was faced with a new ALP leader, popular trade union leader Bob Hawke. Hoping to catch a swing to the Coalition seen in a early by-election, Fraser called a double-dissolution for 1983. He couldn’t stop Hawke and lost heavily, winning 50 seats to Labor’s 75.

    Hawke’s government was a consensus-driven one in which he played only the role of a superior leader, while his close ally and Treasurer Paul Keating did the economic work. Economic work included the floating of the Australian dollar, deregulation of the financial system, dismantlement of the tariff system, and privatizations. Hawke was helped by the divided opposition, with the Liberals divided between economically and socially conservative John Howard and the more moderate Andrew Peacock; while the Nationals hurt the Coalition with a 1987 attempt by Queensland’s Sir Joh to go into federal politics. Hawke easily won in 1984 and 1987. Ironically, it was within the party that he faced more opposition. The ALP, a very factionalized party, was not universal in its backing of Bob Hawke. The Socialist Left saw Hawke’s good ties with big business, especially Murdoch, in a bad eye. Yet, Hawke was re-elected, albeit with a smaller majority, in 1990.

    A late 80s recession and high interest rates hurt the government and Keating slowly broke with Hawke. He challenged Hawke for the leadership, but lost. However, a new Coalition leader – John Hewson – who proposed a detailed plan for economic change, was proving popular, something which led worried ALP powerbrokers to turn back to Keating, who finally beat Hawke 56-51 in late 1991.

    Keating’s claim to fame is his ability to win the unwinnable 1993 election for Labor, giving the ALP yet another win after 10 years in power and despite the recession. He was able to turn some of Hewson’s proposals, such as the GST, against him. Keating’s government aimed to turn Australia into a republic, start reconciliation with indigenous Australians, but also to implement a tough and unpopular austerity program to fight the recession.

    Keating couldn’t do his magic in 1996, and he lost the election to John Howard’s Coalition, which won 94 seats to Labor’s 49. John Howard, a senior Liberal and a well-known Liberal right-winger, came into office with a wide neoliberal reformist agenda. Howard’s first term was tough, with deep budget cuts being unpopular and tougher laws on gun ownership proving unpopular with Coalition supporters. In 1997, Howard also led the push to introduce the GST, turning the 1998 election into a referendum on the issue. He narrowly won a second term, winning 80 seats to Labor’s 67 but losing out to the ALP on the actual 2PP count. The election was also notable by the strong 8% showing made by Pauline Hanson’s far-right anti-immigration One Nation.

    Under Howard, Australia led the UN’s INTERFET mission in East Timor and played a major role in pressuring Indonesia to hold a referendum on the issue. The INTERFET mission was popular, but by early 2001, Howard was struggling with high petrol prices, higher inflation, voter enmity over the implementation of the GST and an economic slowdown. It took external events, namely 9/11 and the Tampa issue, to get the Coalition back in the game. Howard’s exploitation of his government’s refusal to allow asylum seekers on the MV Tampa from seeking refuge in Australia played well with voters. The fact that the country avoided recession also played well. In November 2001, the Coalition won the 2PP and got 82 seats to the ALP’s 65. One Nation also saw its vote share dwindle, leaving Pauline Hanson’s party with only half the votes that it had won in 1998.

    In his third term, Howard became a close ally of the US’s war on terror and became known around the world as being one of George W. Bush’s key supporters, especially in the 2003 run-up to the Iraq war, in which Howard’s government committed 2,000 Australian troops. In 2004, with support for the war on terror strong and a good economy, Howard went into campaign mode against Labor’s Mark Latham, claiming credit for low interest rates and noting that interest rates always got higher when Labor was in power. Howard defied polls showing a close race and won a fourth term, and a major victory, at the polls. The Coalition increased its seat share by 5, reaching 87 seats while the ALP won just 60. For the first time since Fraser, Howard also won a Senate majority. The 2004 election also saw the Greens reach 7% of the vote, mainly at the expense of the Democrats, who won their worst result to date.

    The Howard-Costello record of economic management was strong, especially after 2001, with the government paying off the nation’s debt, low unemployment, low interest rates, high economic growth and higher incomes. Yet, Howard’s government showed signs of ageing in its fourth term and the election of Kevin Rudd as Labor leader allowed the ALP to finally get a competent leader. Some encouraged Peter Costello to challenge Howard for the Liberal leadership and lead the party into the 2007 election, but he did not do so. The unpopular industrial relations program, WorkChoices, which changed employer-employee relations significantly, were also unpopular.

    On a platform of change and also a very ‘green’ platform, Kevin Rudd’s Labor Party swept into power in late 2007, with 53% of the 2PP vote and 83 seats to the Coalition’s 65 seats. Howard was defeated in his own seat of Bennelong, the second Prime Minister after Stanley Bruce to lose his own seat. The Coalition lost their Senate majority, but the Coalition still had the upper hand there, because their 2004 seats were not up.

    In his first moves, Rudd signed the Kyoto Protocol and finally said ‘sorry’ to the Stolen Generations of aboriginals. His government proved very popular throughout 2008, and was helped by a weak opposition. Costello declined to run for the Liberal leadership, which was won by former Defense Minister Brendan Nelson, who then lost it in late 2008 to Malcolm Turnbull. Following a deal between Turnbull and Rudd aimed towards getting Senate approval for Rudd’s Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme. This move angered the party’s right and led to another leadership challenge in which right-wing Tony Abbott narrowly and surprisingly won the party’s leadership. He moved the party to the right, refusing compromise with Labor on climate change legislation. This led Rudd to announce plans to put his emissions-trading scheme (ETS) on the backburner until 2013, and he also announced plans for a Resource Super Profits Tax, which would increase taxes on highly profitable mining operations. These decisions hurt Rudd’s credibility and allowed the Coalition – and the Greens – to eat up Labor’s advantage in polls. In late June, Labor’s powerbrokers switched their support from Rudd to his more popular deputy, Julia Gillard, who was elected unopposed as leader of the ALP, and therefore Prime Minister, on June 24, 2010. More coverage of this leadership coup can be found in this previous blog post.

    Parties, Issues and Campaign

    Gillard, seeing the ALP’s numbers bounce back with her, called an election on July 17 for August 21. Many thought that she could be able to gain back Green voters, which she did early on, and easily defeat Tony Abbott. Abbott, whose nickname is “the mad monk”, is a devoutly Catholic right-winger who is conservative on social issues, climate change and economic issues. Unlike the more moderate Turnbull, his leadership has polarized voters and pushed the Liberal Party to the right. Yet, Gillard jumbled her early campaign, letting voters forget about Abbott and think about how much they disliked Labor – thus leading Abbott’s Coalition to make up ground fast. He even took a lead in 2PP in early August, before Gillard took back the offensive and people didn’t like the sound of Tony Abbott as Prime Minister. This allowed her to take back the lead in 2PP, but Labor still trails on preferences, meaning that a win for Labor will likely come off Green preferences – the Greens are polling well above their 2007 level and could break the 10% line. Green preferences to Labor will likely be large, given Abbott’s climate change policies.

    The last Newspoll has Labor ahead of the Coalition 50.2-49.8 on 2PP, though trailing the Coalition by 4 or so in the primary vote, where the Greens are getting about 13-14%. Other polls have Labor tied or ahead, but no final poll gives the Coalition a lead on 2PP, and Abbott’s leadership numbers remain very weak when stacked up against Gillard’s numbers, although her numbers aren’t phenomenal either. These numbers make a close race pretty certain, and make a hung parliament a real possibility. In such a case, the 3 Independents and other crossbenchers who could win (a Green win in Melbourne is a big possibility) would be the main power-brokers. Unfortunately, perhaps, for Labor, these 3 Independents are all former members of the Nationals and hold traditionally National-leaning seats in Queensland and NSW.

    Consider for a moment the results of 2007 on redistributed boundaries – boundary changes have occurred in NSW, QLD, WA, Tasmania and the Northern Territory. NSW lost one seat to Queensland, while the massive outback seat of Kalgoorlie in WA has been significantly re-designed. The new results give the ALP 88, the Coalition 59 (50 Liberals and 9 Nationals) with 3 Independents (factoring in the Independent gain from National in the Lyne by-election).

    The pundits are saying that Labor should get between 75 and 80, the Coalition between 65 and 70, with 1 Green winning Melbourne and none of the three Independents losing their seats. Polling indicates that that while swings to the Coalition in Queensland (Kevin Rudd’s homestate, where he hasn’t proved too eager to help out), NSW and Western Australia are likely; the ALP could see a swing in its favour in Victoria, Gillard’s home turf. The Coalition needs a major swing in Queensland, NSW and WA to ward off a likely swing to the ALP in Victoria. As of now, swings in QLD, NSW and WA do not look like they’ll be large enough to carry the Coalition over the top.

    Anthony Green’s guide, useful as ever, includes a good list of seats to watch, Australia’s classic pendulum, and information on the Senate. For those watching from the Americas, keep in mind Australia’s time difference and how that plays into election results coming out.

    Australian Labor leadership coup 2010

    Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd was ousted from office by his own party on June 24, in a move which will likely surprise most foreign observers who aren’t used to seeing parties dump their leaders from office. Brian Mulroney wasn’t dumped by his party when his party sunk to utter lows in polls in Canada back in 1992, and Gordon Brown never faced a serious consistent challenge in the Labour Party, even at utter lows in summer 2009.

    Kevin Rudd, leader of the Australian Labor Party (ALP) since 2006 and Prime Minister since the ‘Ruddslide’ of 2007, has gone from being a wildly popular Prime Minister with sky-high approvals to a disliked (some will say ‘hated’) and low-rating leader in the past months or so.

    Firstly, as for the raw facts, talks of a leadership challenge to Rudd had been circling around in the ALP and its affiliated trade unions for a few weeks, or since polls have started showing a fall in the ALP’s primary vote. The government’s popularity suffered as a result of Rudd stalling a carbon-emissions trading scheme, despite Rudd having said in 2007 that climate change was practically the issue of the century. He has lost both credibility out of this PR-disaster, but also lost votes on his left to the Greens. A proposed resources tax which would have, after 2012, taxed mining profits at a rate of 40% after they reach a certain level. A counterattack in the form of ads by the mining companies has proved fruitful for them and negative for the ALP. Finally, more voters are concerned about illegal immigration arriving to Australia on boats, an issue which has seen some demanding a shift to the right by Rudd and has seen increased support for the opposition Coalition. The ALP powerbrokers, who are mostly little-known shadowy figures working from trade unions or backbenches (but hold power over the leadership), were worried about the next election – which could likely be held this fall – if Labor remained led by Rudd. They defected en masse to Julia Gillard, Rudd’s Deputy Prime Minister and a popular and charismatic figure. Though hesitant at first, Gillard agreed to ask Rudd for a challenge. At a press conference on June 23, Rudd said that he had agreed for a leadership vote. Yet, in a defiant speech, he hammered on his successes while in office and warned that his government would not, if he was re-elected, ‘lurch to the right on the question of asylum seekers’. Seeing support evaporate and being given only the support of only 30ish of the 115 Labor federal parliamentarians, he did not fight as earlier announced and backed off. Gillard was elected without opposition and became the 27th Prime Minister of Australia and the first female PM in Australia.

    But for all the talk of Rudd’s fall being precipitated by low polling, one would think that he stood at 15% approval ratings. It was not. In fact, in the last Newspoll, Labor led the Coalition 52-48 on 2PP and only narrowly trailed the Liberals on first preference votes. However, Australian politics and ALP internal politics are particular are treacherous and an affair dominated by much back-stabbing. The ALP itself is factionalized, but unlike other factionalized parties on the left, the factions of the ALP – the right and the left – are fossilized in the structure of the party. Rudd, himself a member of the dominant right, won the leadership in 2006 from Beazley after an alliance with the left’s top contender, Julia Gillard. The fossilized nature of ALP factions means that powerbrokers, the infamous shadowy back-room people, hold considerable power within the party though they are not often seen in positions of power in the federal government itself. Rudd, although a member of the right, never enjoyed good relations with the powerbrokers of the ALP and they tolerated him between 2006 and 2010 because he brought the party success and support. Once the electorate stopped supporting him, his lack of genuine support within the caucus became sorely felt. Rudd’s authoritarian nature while governing, and his habit of centralizing decisions and leaving cabinet ministers in the dark about decisions further hurt his image. The ABC quoted an ALP powerbroker: “This crypto-fascist made no effort to build a base in the party. Now that his only faction, Newspoll, has deserted him he is gone.” The right abandoned him en masse, and it seems that the cards were reversed in the run-up to the caucus meeting when it appeared that only the left remained behind him while the right was united against him. Furthermore, the crucial states of Victoria and New South Wales abandoned Rudd, a Queenslander, in favour of Gillard, a Victorian.

    Although Julia Gillard, 48-year old, has been associated closely with almost all of the government’s decisions, she appears to the electorate as a separate person, a fine speaker, and a less authoritarian person. She has already decided to drop government ads supporting the mining tax while mining companies while drop theirs, likely meaning that she’ll gently bow out of the issue which could have hurt the party electorally in Western Australia and Queensland where mining is important. She enters with a likely honeymoon period and she would be intelligent to call for a federal election for as soon as possible. She is a better leader for the ALP than Rudd in marginal seats in NSW and Victoria, and she appeals to women voters much more than the Liberals’ Tony Abbott, a social conservative and staunchly religious person. Gillard is likely the ALP’s short-term route to a second term which will likely be won this year.

    Penrith (NSW) by-election 2010

    Map of Penrith electorate (source: ABC)

    A by-election in the New South Wales Legislative Assembly division of Penrith was held on June 19, 2010 as a result of the resignation of Labor MP Karyn Paluzzano in May 2010. Penrith is located in the western suburbs of Sydney including the centre of the city of Penrith and parts of the lower Blue Mountains, as well as other suburbs. This seat is a traditionally middle-class seat, with a high household income, but contains few professionals but rather has a fair share of skilled manual workers, a sociological group which has aspirations to join the more professional higher middle-class. These voters provided Liberal Prime Minister John Howard with his winning electorate during his successive mandates in power federally, but these voters shifted back en-masse to Labor in 2007. At the state level, where Labor currently dominates, Penrith is held by Labor and has been Labor since its creation in 1973 with the exception of 1988-1991, when Penrith was held by the Liberals following a Liberal landslide in 1988. Paluzzano, who has held the seat for Labor since 2003, was forced to resign after a corruption scandal exploded and after she lied on the subject to the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC). New South Wales’ Labor government, led by Premier Kristina Keneally (or, known by her initials KKK), has been growing extremely unpopular and is embattled with voter discontent at tax hikes, corruption and financial troubles. Labor won 52 seats in the 2007 election against 35 for the Liberal and Nationals (plus 6 independents), though the numbers stood before the by-election at 50 for Labor and 36 for the coalition. In 2007, Labor won 48.7% of primary votes in Penrith against 32.6% for the Liberals, 6.2% for the Christian Democrats and 5.6% for the Greens. On 2PP, Labor won with 59.2% against 40.8% for the Liberals.

    Labor nominated John Thain, the Liberals nominated Stuart Ayres and the Greens nominated Suzie Wright. Labor faced a very tough campaign, and, despite the personal likability of KKK, struggled to move away from the government’s unpopular policies. The ALP’s spin doctors tried to lower expectations considerably ahead of this by-election. Indeed, in 2008, Labor suffered a 22.7% swing in the Cabramatta by-election and a 23.1% swing in Ryde, which was gained by the Liberal Party. Here are the results in Penrith. If you support Labor, make sure there’s a Kleenex box next to you, and if you supports the Liberals, go buy champagne.

    Stuart Ayres (Liberal) 50.9% (+18.3%)
    John Thain (ALP) 24.4% (-24.2%)
    Suzie Wright (Greens) 12.6% (+7.0%)
    Andrew Green (CDP) 4.5% (-1.7%)
    Noel Selby (Ind) 2.6%
    Mick Saunders (Ind) 2.2%
    David Leyonhjelm (Outdoor Recreation) 1.9%
    Jose Sanz (Democrats) 0.9%

    2PP result:

    Stuart Ayres (Liberal) 66.3% (+25.5%)
    John Thain (ALP) 33.7% (-25.5%)

    There is absolutely no way to spin this for the ALP: it is an unmitigated disaster for NSW Labor. Not only has it lost a safe seat, it has suffered the largest swing in NSW history (25.5%), breaking the record in Ryde in 2008. This swing is unprecedented. These results provide proof that the ALP will be in deep trouble in 2011, and faces attacks on two fronts. The Coalition, which now holds 37 seats, needs ten more seats to win a majority and it is extremely unlikely that they won’t gain at least 10 seats in 2011 to give them a majority. Furthermore, a major boost in the Green vote here could spell danger for Labor in two inner-city Sydney seats – Balmain and Marrickville. Balmain only has a 3.7% Labor majority over the Greens on 2PP. On such a swing of 25.5%, Labor would be reduced to only 11 seats overall. Lastly, some Labor seats are won on Green preference transfers, and in Penrith the exhausted preferences rate according to ABC was 62%. A lot of extremely bad signs for Labor. However, people do tend to get over-excited with results in by-election and the media loves feeding these people with doomsday scenarios for so and so. Realistically, it is unlikely the swing will be this high in 2011, and while a Liberal majority in 2011 seems to be quasi-certain, such a massive defeat for Labor remains unlikely. A real electoral campaign could very well draw back some discontent Labor voters. The results are also bad for Kevin Rudd’s federal Labor cabinet, which could face elections as soon as this fall. Despite an unpopular federal Liberal leader, Labor under Kevin Rudd has seen its rating go in free-fall over rising anger with commodity costs and financial troubles. While Rudd has said that Penrith was mainly fought on state and local issues, he did admit that Labor faces trouble in west Sydney in any fall election.

    South Australia and Tasmania 2010

    South Australia and Tasmania voted today, March 20, to renew their legislatures. In South Australia, all 47 members of the lower house, the House of Assembly, are up f0r re-election in addition to half of the upper house’s (Legislative Council) 22 members. The lower house was last elected in 2006, and the 11 MLCs up for re-election in 2010 were elected or re-elected in the 2002 election. In Tasmania, all 25 members of the lower house (but no members of the upper house) are up for re-election in five 5-seat constituencies.

    South Australia has been governed by Premier Mike Rann (Labor) since 2002, when Labor won power on the back of a maverick independent member, because the Liberals had won more votes that Labor itself. However, Rann’s Labor won a landslide re-election victory in 2006, with 56.8% of the 2PP vote and 28 of 47 seats. The opposition Liberals have had troubles within their leadership since the 2006 election, after former Premier Rob Kerin resigned in 2006. Iain Evans (2006-2007) and Martin Hamilton-Smith (2007-2009) followed him, until Isobel Redmond finally took over in 2009 following a leadership crisis and leadership contest within the party. However, Labor has taken a nosedive in polling since 2008, with a fair share of scandals and unpopular decisions hurting the party in polls. In the last poll prior to the election, the Liberals led 52-48 on the 2PP vote. However, as in Queensland’s last election, Labor performed better at the polls than in the polls, largely at the expense of the Greens. Here are quasi-final though still provisional results:

    Liberal 41.4% (+7.3%) winning 18 seats (+4)
    Labor 37.9% (-7.4%) winning 25 seats (-3)
    Greens 8.0% (+1.6%) winning 0 seats (nc)
    Family First 5.2% (-0.6%) winning 0 seats (nc)
    Nationals SA 1.1% (-1.0%) winning 0 seats (-1)
    Independents and Others 6.4% (+0.1%) winning 4 seats (nc)

    The 2PP vote for Labor is at around 48.5%, though Labor has still won a majority on those numbers. An effective failure of South Australia’s ‘fair redistricting’ method, created to prevent this very type of result from happening.

    The Liberals needed to pick up at least 10 seats to win the magic 24 seats needed to win, and they managed to pick up only four. In the rural seat of Chiffley, rural conservative voters turned against National MP Karlene Maywald, who, despite the Nationals’ close co-operation with the Liberals federally, actually is a member of the Labor government. The Liberals have won with 54% of the 2PP vote there. They won three seats in the Adelaide region from Labor; Morialta, Norwood (in the eastern suburbs, traditionally wealthy and Liberal) and the downtown seat of Adelaide. It failed to gain a number of seats it must win in order to win, including the coastal seat of Bright in Adelaide. Three Independents were re-elected: ex-ALP Kris Hanna, Geoff Brock and ex-Liberal Bob Such. In Mount Gambier, Don Pegler was able to retain the seat in Independent hands following the retirement of cabinet minister Rory McEwen.

    In the Legislative Council, Liberals hold 39.1% on the initial count, against 37.8% for Labor, 6.6% for the Greens, 4.4% for Family First and 1.1% for the Dignity for Disability. 4 Liberals, 4 Labor, 1 Green, 1 Family First and 1 Dignity for Disability members will be elected, giving the new Legislative Council 8 Labor members (nc), 7 Liberals (-1), 2 Greens (+1), 2 Family First (nc), 2 No Pokies-Independents (nc, this is Nick Xenophon’s, now Senator federally, anti-gambling outfit), and 1 Dignity for Disability (+1). Former Democrat MLC, now an Independent, David Winderlich won 0.7% of the vote and loses his seat in the Legislative Council.

    Tasmania, the island off the coast of Australia, has become a Labor-leaning state in recent years, but Tasmanian politics are far more local and parochial than politics in mainland Australia. The island, generally poorer than the mainland, includes inland areas where mining and logging are dominant and the more small-l liberal capital, Hobart and its suburbs. Unlike South Australia and most other Australian states, Tasmania does not have single-member electorates whose members are elected by IRV, but instead it has 5 5-seat divisions whose members are elected by STV. Like South Australia, it does have a Legislative Council, but members are not elected at the same time as the House of Assembly and they are elected in single-seat divisions. Labor has governed the state since 1998 (coming back dramatically from the verge of extinction in the early 90s), and won a huge victory in 2002 and a large (though smaller) victory in 2006. In 2006, Labor won 14 seats (and 49.3%) against 7 for the Liberals and 4 Greenies. The strength of the Greens in a state with important environmental issues (timber, mining, pulp mills) and natural areas relatively untouched by modern development, is another significant aspect of Tasmanian politics. The Greens won a record 17.1% in 1989, on the back of internal Labor divisions over the construction of a large dam in Tasmania. Their strength subsided a bit until 2002, when the party won 18.1%, though the Green vote slid to 16.6% in 2006.

    Premier David Bartlett, in power since only 2008, has had to deal with a number of scandals in his government and the unpopularity of some of his policies. This election, he faces a stronger and more popular Liberal leader, Will Hodgman. Faced also by a Green resurgence, Labor stood in third with 21% in the last poll against 22% for the Greens and 29% for the Liberals. However, undecideds broke heavily in favour of the two largest parties. Here are quasi-final though still provisional results:

    Liberal 39.1% (+7.2%) winning 10 seats (+3)
    Labor 37.1% (-12.1%) winning 10 seats (-4)
    Greens 21.3% (+4.6%) winning 5 seats (+1)
    Others 2.5% (+0.3%) winning 0 seats (nc)

    Here are results by electorate, counting by party :

    Bass (NE Tasmania): Liberal 42.8%, Labor 34.7%, Green 20.5%, Ind 1.9%
    Braddon (NW and West Tasmania): Liberal 44.8%, Labor 40.9%, Green 13.5%, Ind 0.8%
    Denison (Hobart): Labor 36.8%, Liberal 29.8%, Green 24.2%, Andrew Wilkie 8.4%, Socialist 0.7%
    Franklin (South Tasmania and Hobart suburbs): Liberal 41.4%, Labor 30.6%, Green 26.9%, Ind 0.5%, Socialist 0.4%
    Lyons (Central Tasmania): Labor 43.3%, Liberal 36.3%, Green 20.6%

    With only 39% going to the top party and one in five voters or so voting for the Greens, there are no big winners tonight in Tasmania. Tasmania already had a minority Liberal government between 1996 and 1998 and a minority Labor government between 1989 and 1992. That outcome seems most likely, but a Liberal-Green or Labor-Green government must also be on the cards, but the coalition option isn’t as popular. However, Labor staying in power seems to be getting unlikelier by the minute.

    Altona (Victoria) by-election 2010

    The district of Altona (source: ABC Elections)

    A by-election in the Victorian (Australia) state district of Altona was held today, February 13, after the resignation of incumbent MP and Minister of Public Tranport Lynne Kosky. Altona is located in the southwestern suburbs of Melbourne, including the suburbs of Altona, Altona Meadows, Laverton, Seaholme and large parts of Hoppers Crossing. Melbourne’s western suburbs are known to be poorer working-class areas, and a number of them are multicultural in terms of ethnicities. Altona itself is slightly more affluent and middle-class than most western Melbourne, but remains largely working-class as well as multicultural, with over 30% being born outside of Australia. The district also has a low number of people holding diplomas.

    Altona has been held since its creation in 1992 by Labor, and it is classified as a very safe Labor seat in the Victorian political pendulum. Lynne Kosky has been the seat’s MP since the 1996 election, and she won 70% of the 2PP vote last time (and won on first prefs as well, with 60.6% against 23.9% for the Liberals).

    The Liberals have decided to contest this by-election, which is somewhat unusual since major parties don’t usually contest by-elections in safe seats held by the other major party. The proximity of the November 2010 election in the state and the opposition Liberals’ desire to show their strength might explain this decision. The Liberal candidate is Mark Rose. The Labor candidate is Jill Hennessy. There is also a Green candidate and five other candidates (of which four are Independents).

    Here are the results:

    Jill Hennessy (ALP) 47.5% (-13.1%)
    Mark Rose (Liberal) 34.9% (+11.1%)
    David Strangward (Green) 10.4% (+2.0%)
    Liz Mumby (Ind) 1.8%
    Brijender Nain (Ind) 1.7%
    Brian Shaw (Ind) 1.6%
    Margarita Windisch (Socialist Alliance) 1.6%
    Andrew Rixon (Ind) 0.5%

    Jill Hennessy (ALP) 57.9% (-12.3%)
    Mark Rose (Liberal) 42.1% (+12.3%)

    FTR, in 2006, a Family First candidate won 7.08% of the vote in Altona.

    Hennessy won all polls except one in Point Cook, which has a RAAF air base. Liberal candidate Mark Rose is a former RAAF pilot, so he probably got a boost there from that.

    This is obviously a very good result for the opposition Liberal Party, and it might encourage the party. The last poll for the November 2010 election showed a 53-47 2PP result in favour of Labor, but the actual results of this by-election would, if replicated state-wide, give the Liberals a good lead. However, this is a by-election in a seat where a popular long-time MP was retiring, so it is best not to take out too much from here except for ‘good Liberal result’.